We associate dynasties more with politics or showbiz than with visual art, but the Carracci, Peale, Duchamp, and Wyeth clans demonstrate how effectively nature and nurture can work in concert. To that roster we might add the distinguished East Bay Stefl/Toki clan of Larry Stefl, Pamela Stefl-Toki and John Toki, two printmaker siblings and a sculptor spouse. Their works in Journey of the Soul are diverse explorations of the creative impulse, yet harmonious in their shared commitment to painterly gesture, exploration of medium and process, and abstract depiction of the natural world. One French writer a century ago characterized the critic's role as relating his soul's adventures amid masterpieces; despite our current reluctance to bandy the M or S words around (due to postmodernist pudeur), art's purpose is to embody the artist's soul's adventures amid the marvels — and failed divine masterpieces — of the world.
But back to the critic's soul's journey. Monotypes are unique paper prints made from inked metal plates. Because they're made by physically manipulating printing inks without the cumbersome chemical procedures of traditional methods of printmaking, they're popular with painters. (Monoprints differ in repeating pictorial elements due to physical alterations to the printing plate, but the terms are used almost interchangeably.) Stefl and Stefl-Toki exploit the medium's inherent painterly expressiveness. Stefl's Brasil Series monotypes and Brasil Collage Series mixed-media print-paintings depict the tropics lyrically and cubistically, employing iconic leaf/tree forms, simplified stems/trunks, and green mists of foliage shot through with yellow and azure. "Boa Vista #5" commemorates another tropical paradise with hints of a pyramid and a ticket stub. Stefl-Toki paints with pigmented clay slips on newsprint sheets, which, after drying, she transfers to half-inch-thick slabs of wet clay set within wooden frames. That soft matrix she then manipulates with a variety of scraping/stamping tools before transferring the image via rolling pin, building up layer after layer, to the final paper substrate. It's a process that produces deeply saturated color and rich textural effects. Her prints ("Metamorphoses," "Regeneration," "Shapeshifting," "Openings to the Journey 2") depict fields of energy with psychological implications — cataclysmic mindscapes. Toki's monumental stoneware/porcelain sculptures invoke, rather than space (inner or outer), the earthly landscape, but in symbolic rather than topographic form. His magmatic slabs or extrusions ("Mysterious Yellow Pocket"), steles and columns ("Blue Pinnacle," "Earth Dream"), contrasting rough textures with painted areas suggestive of stylized animal totems, mixing anthropology, geology, and mythology, could almost be Ozymandian ecological object lessons. Earth to earthlings: Stop mucking about. Journey of the Soul runs through February 25 at Craft & Cultural Arts Gallery (1515 Clay St., Oakland). 510-622-1890 or OaklandCulturalArts.org
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