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Best Western: Art by Martin Webb 

When: Jan. 29-Feb. 18 2008

The open road exercises the same mythic pull on the American psyche that the frontier did, so it's interesting to get an English artist's take on our dromomania, our travel bug. In his show at Esteban Sabar Gallery, Best Western(named after the motels, of course), Martin Webb records his impressions of going mobile, but in the curious medium of concrete (pigmented with acrylic), which is entirely appropriate, on second thought. He also literally impresses into the paintings the souvenirs of his journeys: keys, gears, and other industrial effluvia are buried in the liquid matrix and later sanded and buffed back to the light of day. These paintings are both maps and archaeological digs; considering the paradoxical medium, they're also delicately also poetic, with symbols for houses and trees midway between Klee pictograms and Department of Transportation signage. The silhouetted figures will remind viewers of Jasper Johns' and William Wiley's phantom self-portraits, but in such paintings as "Super 8," "Headlight," "Walgreen," "West Ridine," and "Stage Coach," Webb depicts America's automotive landscape and culture with a lyricism that we lead-footed Yanks mostly miss. Through February 17 at Esteban Sabar Gallery, (480 23rdrd St.reet, Oakland). CA 94612. or 510-444-7411 or

— DeWitt Cheng


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