Sad times, according to Monty Python's Roger the Shrubber: "There is a pestilence upon this land; nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress in this period in history." American culture is confused and adrift, still bereft of unifying larger purpose even after the exit of Bush the Rogerer and his corporate buccaneers. (Remember "the vision thing"?) Contemporary art about nature reflects our current predicament, naturally, and our predilection, both triumphant and uneasy, for the virtual, artificial, and hybrid — for the personal and idiosyncratic.
David Burke, Devin Cecil-Wishing, Andy Gouveia, Clint Imboden, Liz Maher, Ginny Parsons, Mark Schroeder, Michael Singman-Aste, Patch Wright, and T. Joseph Enos examine and explore the current zeitgeist, employing a variety of media and approaches. Burke's lushly colored paintings present forest or jungle views that stylize naturalistic elements (blossoms, lianas, vines, tendrils) unto visionary landscapes that suggest Brauer, Hundertwasser, and, with their painterly drips and atmospheric perspective, Darren Waterston; the writhing pink blossoms in "Pandora's Eden...." could have come from Max Ernst's primordial forests. Imboden's three sculptures use globes to comment on ecological and political themes: one globe is sectioned and pounded full of spikes, resembling a dandelion; another sits atop a tripod of crutches; a third sits, cut apart and fashioned into a chafing dish, atop a bomb casing, with the stenciled word "BOOM" inside. Maher constructs sculptures from a profusion of unlikely elements: "It's a Family Affair" is a chandelier sporting satin-sleeved bride's arms and hands proffering both pearl necklaces and daggers. Her meticulously sewn tree sculptures are likewise semi-human, featuring arms bearing candies and glasses of insulation-foam bubbly, with French fries and Doritos spilling out from Freudian trunk cavities. Schroeder's sculptures contrast finely crafted organic wooden form (breasts, beehives, bombs) with fabricated metal geometry (gears) or free-form plaster or clay; the top-like "#7" seems to have been assembled from a cookie or cake, a segmented spindle or earthworm, a bottle cap, and an acorn. Wright makes conceptual surrealist sculptures on biological themes from office supplies and furniture: "Whale: Proof That Tables Had Legs" wraps a folding banquet table, covered with barnacles, in white plastic, with the folded legs standing in for the tiny vestigial leg bones that cetaceans still possess. "Shark Pelt..." is a flattened sharkskin mounted on the wall, bearskin-rug-style with gaping maw, but the denticles of its abrasive skin, formerly used for sandpaper, are now replaced by disposable razor heads. Artificial Nature runs through August 23 at Autobody Fine Art (1517 Park St., Alameda). AutobodyFineArt.com or 510-865-2608
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