Estaban Sabar's latest show, which he's calling "Nature's Intentions," showcases works of three artists who bring us into unnerving confrontation with the beauty, grace, and abject vulgarity of nature. It's not at all certain that what they show us is what nature intended, but then again, nature's intentions — should there be any — would likely have nothing to do with what us humans think we want to see.
Gary Brewer's works use a sort of — if you'll cast your mind back to the early 1980s — Ocean Pacific color scheme, alternating between the green-indigo-violet of the sea, and the red-orange-yellow of sunsets. But the forms in his paintings are not purely of the relaxing pulse of a tamed sea, although the strands of the many anemones are graceful in their flowing. Also tucked into the darker interiors of these creatures are fleshy apertures, like sucking lips, unsettling the almost banal beauty of the scenes.
Jennifer Holmes refocuses our gaze on certain water creatures: The flesh of her many koi fish seem more viscous than solid, while she increases the alien solidity of starfish, bringing their bumps and ridges and curves into such clarity you could almost lick it. But the quality of light on the water's surface is so distilled and distinct that it jumps to the foreground like white etchings; light is the most concrete element in these photographs. Holmes does marvelous work in bringing the eerie grotesqueries of these animals just over the edge into beauty.
Chris Isner's mutant fetuses are something else altogether — somewhere between prenatal and geriatric, female and male, human and amphibian, they float belly down or fully prone in amniotic baths of watery color. Most have no hands or feet or legs — some are still in an embryonic stage, resembling lumpy tadpoles — but do have fully formed primary and secondary sexual appendages: adult penises, one or two or three rows of mature female breasts. Yet, their smooth skin and soft curves invite a kind of affection in the midst of revulsion, and the love Isner has for curves and smooth surfaces is apparent in his sculptures at the center of the room. They are tabletop alabaster sculptures, polished to high gloss and displaying stunning grains and colors. Their pairing with the images from the "Bald Amputee Anthropomorphs in Profile" series highlights the strange collusion of beauty and disgust of the show entire. Through November 19 at Estaban Sabar, 480 23rd Street, Oakland. 510-444-7411 or EstabanSabar.com
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