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March 14, 2014
Critic's Pick

Out and so softly about Timothy Berry

By Victoria Dalkey, The Sacramento Bee art correspondent

"Better Government" is among the Timothy Berry works on exhibit at b. sakata garo. Its images include a monkey and a small portrait of Abraham Lincoln.
Subdued color and submerged imagery characterize many of the enigmatic works in painter/printmaker Timothy Berry’s current show at b. sakata garo. Using an elaborate process that involves multiple layers of oil, encaustic, asphaltum and ink-jet printing applied to paper mounted on canvas, he gives us subtle narratives that examine the relationship between humans and nature.

Soft grays, blues and earth tones predominate in the majority of the pieces on view that involve floral and vegetal motifs overlaid on almost subliminal images of figures and man-made structures.

“Dance” gives us a lyrical image of fruits, flowers, branches and pods laid down in shadowy layers under which lurks a disturbing figure with a frightening face. “Flight” similarly gives us botanical imagery behind which you can discern an airplane and a Pan-like figure. These are dream or nightmare images that are quietly compelling if you take the time to absorb them fully.

Nature and culture conflict in “Fairy Lands,” a bolder display of an Edenic garden hiding a factory with belching smokestacks, and “Better Government,” which reveals a monkey, a small portrait of Abraham Lincoln and what might be the columns of a state building.

In “Gethsemane” a pair of children reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel wander in a ghostly landscape where a nearly indistinguishable figure, perhaps a Christ with a crown of thorns, dwells. In “Pair” a demonic figure and the Statue of Liberty compete for our attention. Again we are in a dreamlike realm of archetypes.

Brighter colors and a more antic flair appear in “Dignity Falls,” with its imaginary landscape featuring an arched bridge hiding doll-like figures from children’s books. Bolder, too, is “Most Hidden” in which vibrant red fruit is placed against a background of black shadowy forms.

The Scarecrow from Oz is the deeply submerged figure overseen by a crow on a branch in “Scare the Crow,” a dark and disturbing piece, as is “Looking Back” with its winged reptilian creature. These puzzlelike images reward the patient viewer but are sometimes so subtle as to seem merely decorative tone poems. More aggressive and compelling is the imagery in a triptych titled “Eve’s Rise.” Here, Berry places highly refined images of animals against a bold background of black branches and intensely colored fruits and flowers.

In the central panel, a beautifully rendered white bird looks over a dramatic, richly textured scene of natural beauties. On the left a striking fox lurks among blue flowers and skies. On the right a Durer-like rabbit with startled eyes looks on a bold landscape of ripe berries and pears and exotic flowers.

“Eve’s Rise” is a treat for the eyes and carries a not-so-subtle subtext of endangered yet enduing nature. This is a fine show by Berry, who teaches at the San Francisco Art Institute and the University of California, Davis. .

Timothy Berry

WHERE: b. sakata garo, 923 20th St.

WHEN: Noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, through March 29

INFORMATION: (916) 447-4276