The Pursuit of Happiness

Pro Arts' 2010 Juried Annual is a triumph of diversity.

It may have the same name as Todd Solondz’s black comedy about
family dysfunction, but Happiness, a juried group show
judged by London independent curator Sherman Sam, is complex,
provocative, and diverse. Ranging from stylized realism (Steven Barich,
Timothy Buckwalter, Jane Fisher, Elizabeth Johnson, Anna Ludwig, Mike
McConnell, Rico Marcelli, David Ryan, Julianne Sterling, and Pamela
Zwehl-Burke) through abstraction (Chris Ashley, Lisa S. Kang, Tim Ryan,
Marilyn Wong, and Lika Yurkovetsky) and conceptual/multimedia work
(Robert Abrams, Adam Green, Eric Larson, Helen Lee, Klea McKenna, Jill
McLennan, Dominic Nguyen, and Lauren Parent), this show is a snapshot
of various types of quite high-functioning current art practice, and a
good exhibition to inaugurate (not discounting recent curated shows)
Pro Arts’ move downtown to the former Oakland Art Gallery.

Some highlights from the thirty-odd pieces include Steven Barich’s
graphite drawing, “Apophenia Sphere,” from his show at Rowan Morrison
in July; apophenia is the perceptual error of seeing illusory patterns
or meanings within visual chaos (an art reviewer’s occupational hazard,
of course), and the globular Chinese scholar’s stone atop its carved
pedestal that seemingly morphs into pixelated digital artifact or
crossword puzzle expresses the arbitrariness of meaning in the floating
world of signifiers. Chris Ashley’s lyrical abstractions, “Loch
Doghra,” Eternal Throne,” and Forkhill,” may be enigmatically entitled,
but they hold the eye authoritatively; their swirling blue and green
interlocking shapes are reminiscent of Frank Stella’s baroque cutout
pieces, while the dripped paint tracks hint at the effort behind
easy-looking abstraction. Tim Ryan’s heavily impasted “Barren”
paintings and Lika Yurkovetsky’s adjacent ethereal, hard-edged floating
forms in “Gog Magog” and “English Garden” make for a nice contrast in
visual weights and textures. Jane Fisher and Rico Marcelli work within
realism, but idiosyncratically, Fisher portraying a prize-winning steer
at its moment of glory, and Marcelli representing an apartment door
with its ageless brass number, peephole, and mismatched jambs.
Multimedia works of note include Eric Larson’s untitled collages on
paper mimicking woven rug patterns and, lending the show its title,
Adam Green’s “Happiness,” with the word rendered in large capital
letters of scaly overlapping potato chips on the wall, above others
fallen to the floor — and still tempting, even well past their
2008 eat-by date.

Happiness runs through January 14 at Pro Arts at Oakland
Art Gallery
(150 Frank H, Ogawa Plaza, Oakland). or

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