By Victoria Dalkey, Sacramento Bee Art Correspondent
An enigmatic narrative, a quixotic drawing of a musical performance and a rich still life of winter
squash are among the standouts in Theophilus Brown's large show of small works at b. sakata garo.
|Untitled Theophilus Brown |
a renowned Bay Area Figurative painter, offers a kind of mini- retrospective in this show of works dating from 1979
to the present. All exhibit his particular brand of blunt representation of the natural world from frank nudes
to soberly observed still life subjects and urban landscapes. His gaze is strong, straight-on, and, at times, somber.
Brown's drawings of male nudes, in particular, are direct and solidly observed without flash or flair. There is
nothing ingratiating about these studies, though a couple are androgynously sensual. There is also a female nude,
presented in a more complex composition in which she sits in front of a window with a light-seeking plant to her
right. It's a complicated, hard-won drawing that exemplifies the seriousness of his approach.
Another element, an emotive use of color, comes into his paintings. A male figure sits in a chair facing the viewer,
his stolidity compromised by the strong color of his blue shirt and the red wall behind him. Similarly alive with color,
warm reds and shades of blue from teal to aquamarine, is a straight-on self-portrait, barefooted, cross-legged
in a studio interior.
Other works get into the realm of the archetypal. A woman and a child on the beach
remind one of Matisse's 1909 "Nude by the Sea" and his 1907 "Le Luxe II." Here, the bright sea and dark sky take on the force of symbols, the figures timeless evocations of the human in an idyllic landscape.
Another scene of nudes near water makes one think of the bathers of Cézanne. These homely, raw figures rise up from a rocky shore like primal beings placed in a timeless scenario.
More compelling, because it's fraught with emotion, is an odd painting of a group of men, some on their knees, others holding up a wounded man, one perplexed and looking out of the picture toward some unidentified object or figure. The pink-red sky and green sand strike an ominous note, as does the suggestion of a violent act warfare or crime that has taken place. It's a fascinating scene, worthy of extended contemplation.
On a lighter note, Brown gives us a quick drawing of an opera singer and her accompanist at a grand piano on a stage draped with curtains. The diva emits a word bubble making a round sound that escapes from her mouth with force, while a fragment of a musical score floats over
the pianist. It's a witty and charming piece.
Brown also offers a series of small still life paintings,
the strongest pitting a butternut and an acorn squash against a pair of small marbles swirled with bright color.
As solid and metaphysically compelling as some of Gordon Cook's paintings of mute objects, it strikes a strong
Also noteworthy are two drawings of industrial sites a factory and, perhaps, grain silos
that make one think of Charles Sheeler. These precise images are powerfully observed and cleanly rendered.
in all, it's an impressive show and one that is very generous in spirit. It offers a rare chance to see paintings and
drawings by one of Northern California's most eminent artists.
The show continues at b. sakata garo, 923 20th Street, (916) 447.4276 through Saturday, April 30, www.bsakatagaro.com