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September 7, 2007
Critic's Pick

See the Light

Noteworthy exhibits usher in fall season

By Victoria Dalkey, The Sacramento Bee art correspondent

"Diamond Ship" is one or about 20 light-emitting works by Chris Daubert documented by photographs in his "light houte" installation.

One of the most anticipated shows of the year and a rare outing in a commerical glalery for this nationally prominent conceptual artist, "light house" will be an intallation of approximately 20 works documentating a series of light-emitting structures (one 14 feet tall) that Daubert built and then destroyed.

Only existing now as memories captured on film, the structures tantalize the viewer with questions about their matierals, construction, meaning and reason for being. Presented as large-scale photographic transparencies mounted in light boxes, the mysteriously beautiful images range from what might be a spaceship casting elegant patterns of light and shadow on the sky to a giant house of light floating over a flat valley landscape at sunset. The show also includes a series of short films and light boxes with illuminated drawings that range from elaborate surreal still life images to self-portraits.

Chris Daubert

WHEN: Noon-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, through September 30

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

INFORMATION: (916) 447-4276.www.bsakatagaro.com

September 2007
Critic's Pick

By Tim Foster, Midtown Magazine

Chris Daubert, "Light House," lifochrome transparency in light box 40" x 55", 2007.

Chris Daubert is on a roll. The local artist and Sacramento City College professor
has recently been profiled in both Sacramento and Sactown magazines and is about to open a highly anticipated solo show at the B. Sakata Garo gallery. What happened to make this low-key local artist the Sacramento equivalent of an art star?

The short answer is Travelers Among Buildings and Streams. The artist’s ambitious 2005 installation at the 1050 Loft wowed Sacramento’s art community and was perhaps the best-received local work of contemporary art since Thiebaud’s heyday. The Sacramento Bee’s Victoria Dalkey called the piece “one of the most arresting exhibitions I have seen and certainly the most amazing installation to be mounted in Sacramento.” Similar accolades followed, and suddenly it seemed that everyone was talking about Chris Daubert.

Daubert seems to take the flurry of attention in stride. Clearly his focus is on making work—Daubert’s practice fills three studios—rather than promoting his art career. This attitude is perhaps unsurprising for an artist who traded a high profile position in the chaotic Bay Area art scene for the bucolic confines of Dixon, and later Sacramento. As the founder and president of the Pro-Arts Gallery in Oakland, Daubert spent more time curating and networking than he did making his own work. Now, though he both teaches art at Sacramento City College and runs the Gregory Kondos Gallery on campus, Daubert finds time to make work. A lot of work.

His wide-ranging art practice covers everything from assured life drawing to electrical constructions to fluxus-like installations. There is no constant, other than quality.

Chris Daubert’ style; it’s his thinking—a kind of signature attitude—that makes everything cohere,” says Elaine O’Brien, professor of Art History at Sac State. “His range of high level skills is incredible.”

Despite his prodigious output, Daubert has rarely shown in Sacramento. This is due partly to his tendency toward as he says, “extraordinarily large installations,” and indeed, Travelers Among Buildings and Streams occupied a 25,000 square foot space. But, at least as big a factor is his disinterest in making art as a commodity. Daubert is a rarity among Sacramento artists: an unabashed conceptualist who often includes the viewer as an inherent component of a piece.

Travelers Among Buildings and Streams is the ne plus ultra of the ambitious large-scale installations to which the artist is drawn. Constructed of over 1000 hand-built light-up text boxes, each containing a single word in red, the installation consisted of seemingly endless lines of fragmentary text. Hung in a horizontal strip throughout a darkened building, the texts ran nearly a quarter of a mile in length. The piece took 2 years to construct and when installed covered an entire floor of a rehabbed office building.

The text pieces, all but one written by Daubert, formed fragmentary statements—simple ruminations on a theme of man’s relation to the eternal earth. Visitors to the installation seemed to disappear, folded into the darkness, then revealed again only as negatives against the red horizon. The otherworldly environment was transcendental, seemingly disembodying the viewer in an effect of near-astral projection. As unlikely as it seems, Daubert had created the ethereal in a rough construction site at the corner of 20th and K.

Light House, Daubert’s upcoming show at B.Sakata Garo will be the artist’s rare solo foray into a commercial gallery. Asked about the show, Daubert laughed. “Barry [Sakata] said, ‘do what ever you want … but it sure would be nice to sell something.’” When I spoke with him a few weeks ago, Daubert was not exactly sure what work would be in the show. “One of the things that I’ve learned as a curator is that editing out twenty to fifty percent makes a show stronger,” he says. The creation and editing process will continue until just before the show is installed.

Daubert’s latest work is no less ambitious than Travelers Among Buildings and Streams—it’s just smaller. At least the versions that viewers encounter.
For this current body of work, Daubert creates epic structures, painstakingly documents them, and then tears them apart. Then, again using electric light boxes, he creates structures that house beautifully rich images of the destroyed structures—which now exist only in the documentary form. Carefully eschewing any reference to scale, the images could be almost anything, seemingly anywhere. Touching on Mayan architecture, the mechanicals of advertising, and the eternal question of what is ‘real’, the work is arresting, seeming both familiar and foreign at the same time.

Daubert is excited to be in Sacramento these days. He sees a new groundswell of interest in the arts, and is excited about both his own work and his curatorial work at the Kondos.

When I asked what motivates him to make art, he revealed a simple recipe: “I try to make things that I would want to see.”

Light House by Chris Daubert runs September 4 through September 29 at B. Sakata Garo at 923 20th Street, Sacramento. More information at 916 447 4276 or at www.bsakatagaro.com

November 2007
Critic's Pick

By Herne Pardee, art ltd., West Coast Art + Design

"Chris Daubert, "Light House," lifochrome transparency in light box 40" x 55", 2007.
Chris Daubert: “light house” at b. sakata garo

Entitled “light house,” this multimedia show could be seen as an effort to “house” light, which Daubert traps in makeshift structures. Using spotlights set under wooden staves, behind drapery-like folds of paper, or within translucent sheets of plastic, he creates sensuous and dramatic stage sets that he records photographically.

The “light houses” could also be the light boxes (up to three feet wide) that dominate the darkened main gallery, on which the digitized results are displayed. Indeterminate as to place and scale, the images could depict found objects, refugee shelters, or futuristic environments. Informed by Daubert’s craftsmanship (he once constructed musical instruments), this process can lead to spare, modernist elegance, as in several works that feature pieces of curved metal. But Daubert’s interest extends beyond mere form into what he calls “snapshots”—ephemeral encounters captured in works like Light House, a floating pyramid that veers towards the surreal—and into improvisatory riffs on the wonders of artificial light.

Daubert spins off ideas, from playful to political; his approach is nonsystematic, yet grounded in an attention to material construction, from which his connections emerge. Three videos display his structures under changing conditions, while another shifts context completely, featuring skeins of wiry red lines (inspired by maps of airline routes), hand-drawn on the computer, which gradually accumulate to define the black silhouette of Daubert’s own crouching figure. Spot-lit momentarily against the red glow of the computer, a denizen of this virtual world, he gradually dissolves in swarms of pixels, employing electronic light to almost painterly effect. Three silk-screened transparencies also feature the artist’s body in red. An underlying connection of light to bodily warmth becomes explicit in Still-life with Text, where heterogeneous shiny objects are united by stark illumination into something like an old magic lantern slide. Set below in glowing letters runs the text, “It wasn’t the light so much as it was the heat, forcing its way through even the smallest crack.” Light as heat, a fact of life in the Sacramento Valley, suggests a timely warning to our energy-dependent age and provides a subtext to this heavily wired exhibition.