All Systems Go 

Three artists join forces in a fortuitously cohesive show.

In Residency Projects II, the second of two annual Kala residency exhibitions, Nichole Maury, Yasuaki Onishi, and Ali Richards present work that they created independently during their 2009 stints at Kala Institute. "Pickup" group exhibitions, even small ones, often make for scattershot viewing, but such is not the case here, where the three sensibilities mesh seamlessly, as if by design. Maury's monoprinted abstract drawings, Onishi's weblike installations, and Richards' photographs of fire damage explore the collision between the natural and the artificial systems that we create (and live in). Art in the past evolved to reflect social and technological change, and now it is responding to the ecological crisis — call it a grassroots resiliency project. While the work can be seen as broadly ecological, it is hardly polemical — it's more investigation than exhortation, but still about the issue of our era.

Maury, a Michigan printmaker, presents silk-screen monoprints. The printing process creates randomly dispersed patches or stains reminiscent of lakes or craters; around these she draws lacy networks of polygons. While previous works employed collage elements assembled into grids, the three "Connected" prints belong to our real world of crumpled, stained papers (or collapsed geodesic domes) rather than to a timeless mathematical realm; incorporating and embroidering on chaos and entropy, they are "visual systems that live in fear of chaos, but are nonetheless infiltrated by an attraction to disorder." Onishi, an installation artist from Osaka, creates large, ephemeral-looking installations from commonplace industrial materials like plastic bags, tape, dripping glue, and plastic sheeting. His translucent lashed-raft grid layers and metaphorical rootlets, sprouts and tendrils, quivering with every air current, take on a slow, pulsing life for the receptive viewer. They suggest Rothko's breathing rectangles, physically materialized in real space, yet ghostly and absent. "Two Fences (filtrations)" suggests schematized layers of sod and grass shaken free of dirt, or any matrix of interdependent systems and organisms. "Ten receptacles (penetration)" adds hanging basketlike forms to Onishi's dematerialized filament cages, suggesting nests and hives. Richards is a British documentarian/conceptualist who photographed fire damage from Santa Barbara and environs earlier this year for her series Jesusita Summerland, focusing on burned cars beneath mournfully naked branches; a scorched bit of trellis adorned with artificial flowers; the profile of a now-missing stairway on a stained cinderblock wall; a chimney, mouth agape, and a blank-eyed pair of windows standing amid rubble and fallen trees. Residency Projects II runs through October 3 at Kala Gallery (2990 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley). Kala.org or 510-841-7000

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