Phelan Award printmakers take differing approaches.

James D. Phelan (1861-1930), San Francisco mayor, head of the Red Cross during the 1906 earthquake, US senator, and owner of Saratoga's Villa Montalvo, was also an art collector who established awards recognizing California artists. This year's prizes in printmaking went to Harry Clewans of Berkeley for his detailed woodcut collages and to Maizie Gilbert of San Francisco for her mysterious soft-focus digital prints; an Honorable Mention goes to Sarah Newton of San Francisco for her moody intaglio urban street scenes.

Clewans employs the woodcut medium to generate ideas and imagery. Choosing motifs from natural history and daily life, Clewans prints multiple copies, cuts them up, and reassembles them into large collages on wood that depict either relatively realistic scenes (although composed of a miscellany of object fragments), or synthesized fantasies that arise from intuition and chance. Arcimboldo's symbolic portraits (e.g., a librarian composed of books) come to mind, as do the collaged engravings of Max Ernst, with their metamorphoses and alt-reality science; the congestion of the picture plane recalls such obsessive space fillers as Jess and Ivan Albright. These images suggest dark fairy tales in which inanimate matter comes to life; the golem Clewans once depicted, riffing on the silent movie's clay giant, is almost emblematic.

Gilbert finds her subjects instead in the real world, photographing simplified scenes — a sunset, a woman's shoulder, a beach — with a 1970s Polaroid Land camera and various dedicated films. Photographers will remember the soft optics and vignetting of those magically self-developing images; both features remain prominent in Gilbert's enlarged archival digital prints, which convey poetic mystery with unforced ease, hinting at cinematic storytelling. Gilbert: "These images describe pieces of a nonspecific narrative. I am thinking about a way of feeling and making a story about it out of photographs. I am looking for, or looking at, a quiet still lingering and a kind of disassociation."

Newton's etchings of quiet streets at night, simultaneously mysterious and realistic, explore the poetics of darkness as Hopper explored the poetics of sunlight. The James D. Phelan Art Award in Printmaking runs through November 28 at Kala Gallery (2990 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley). Tragically, Kala founder Yuzo Nakano was seriously burned in a recent studio fire; fortunately, he is on the mend, though he and partner Kazuko Watanabe lost much of their artwork. See the web site if you'd like to help. or 510-841-7000.


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Readers also liked…

Latest in Visual Art

Author Archives

Most Popular Stories

Arts & Culture Blogs

Food & Drink -

Paradise Park Cafe Brings All-Day Dining to Oakland

Arts & Music -

Art + Soul Returns To Oakland This Weekend

Arts & Music -

Outside Lands Day Three: A Misty Closeout

Food & Drink -

Oakland's Belotti Ristorante Set to Expand

More from the Blogs

Special Reports

Holiday Guide 2016

A guide to this holiday season's gifts, outings, eats, and more.

Taste, Fall 2016

Everything you need to know about dining in and out in the East Bay.

© 2017 East Bay Express    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation