New talent from I-80 corridor points up the folly of urban provincialism.

It's time San Francisco chauvinists jettisoned Herb Caen's mythology about "The City" and got a clue: it's not always about us "happy few." That's true in art, too. All artists nowadays, as Neither Here Nor There curator (and transplanted Citizen) Renny Pritikin writes, are "residents of the contemporary art e-nation ... flooded with digital images ... whether you live upstream or downstream." To update Gertrude Stein's observation about Oakland, there's a there everywhere now. The young Sacramento-area artists shown here — Nathan Cordero, Richard Haley, Ross Khalsa, Kyle Monhollen, and Lisa Prettol — make cutting-edge art as sophisticated, playful, and well-crafted as anything from the nonsmoky hipster caffeine dens of — say it! — Frisco. (Take that, renegade Sackamenna Kid!)

Khalsa and Prettol treat the traditional objects of male and female fascination with humor and style. Khalsa's color-saturated oil paintings of trucks, buses, and other manly hardware have an iconic simplicity midway between folk art and minimalist abstraction; his witty "Pallet Stacks," a bumper's-eye-view of the hind end of a heavily laden flatbed, is all jazzy stripes and dots, while "Yellow Truck," roughly painted on raw wood, with its exhaust stacks like machine guns, is the emotional opposite — a rearview-mirror apparition of terror. Prettol's overlapping collaged images of abstracted wedding rings deglamorize female matrimonial fantasy as exemplified by the pink and white glitter, and achieve a tougher beauty by literally stripping away illusion, exposing its corrugated brown cardboard substructure.

Cordero, Haley, and Monhollen choose less archetypal motifs. Cordero paints a door panel and incises it with a razor, depicting beer bottles, cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters, keys, and less generic motifs (men in ski masks, words, abstract designs). Haley, finding universal futility rather funny, crafts humble models of objects and monumentalizes them in huge photo blowups: his abject "Podium Piece" looks like a last-minute Bay-to-Breakers costume which no public speaker would go near. Monhollen sees his family history in the long term; he plots the planting of white pines on the family property (1956), his birth (1973), and his grandfather's death (1980), as well as lesser events — like hearing Van Halen for the first time (1983) — onto the annual growth rings of a fallen pine tree branch his exact age in his three laser-cut Dendrochronographs for Self (1973- ), Dad (1944- ) and Grandpa (1908-1980). Remember Meleager of Greek myth? The exhibition of these pieces (2008), by the way, is also recorded. Neither Here Nor There runs through March 7 at Johansson Projects, (2300 Telegraph Ave., Oakland). or 510-444-9140.


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