I walked through the front door of JAYJAY the day ‘Summer in the City’ opened and saw a very curious creature. It had a body of brightly colored plastics and a pair of legs with yoga pants on. Was it a super-evolved sea organism? An alien that had made Earth its second home? A half human, half robotic life form like the Borg? Nope! It was just former Verge artist Mitra Fabian putting the finishing touches on an installation.
For the exhibition of ‘Summer in the City’, Sacramento City College art teachers Michael Stevens, Anne Gregory, and Suzanne Adan were invited to curate a show. They chose work from four recently hired colleagues, Gioia Fonda, Emily Wilson, Mark Boguski, and Mitra Fabian, to hang at JAYJAY this summer. I knew that Mitra installs most of her own work, so I went into JAYJAY as early as possible hoping she was still lingering around and in a talkative mood. She must have been ready for a break from straightening hundreds of tiny, plastic cones because she looked way too happy to speak with me. So far my plan was working out perfectly.
While we chatted for a minute, I took a quick glance around. The gallery displayed several formats of work. Shapes contrasted by delicate lines and a palette of black and white with constrained doses of bold color linked the different styles together.
Since I only saw one prominent installation-type piece, I asked if Mitra had any other work at JAYJAY. She pointed out a handful of boxes hung like pictures on the wall and the pink amoeba from the flier. The boxes were the first of a few surprises to me. After seeing several slides of her work and her piece in Flatlanders 3, I had preconceived notions of Mitra’s work as being expansive, free, and organic. Honestly, I didn’t think I would like boxes at all. They were the exact opposite of my idea of her art. They are small, tight, and compounded. But after a few minutes of looking, a dark horse emerged and stole the show.
My favorite piece of ‘Summer in the City’ is a box titled Open-ended Series. This piece is a rectangle of thin, white acrylic hung on the wall and stuffed full of curling, multicolored plastic film. The plastic film spills out of an opening cut into the bottom. Gallery lighting causes distinct glares and shadows to hit the wall. Contrary to my initial shock and apprehension of Open-ended Series, it is an elegant and intelligent synopsis of who I think Mitra is as an artist. Her sculpture has the masculinity and presentation of Donald Judd, the femininity and bodily interior of Eva Hesse, the mathematical quality and importance of shadows as a part of the composition like Sol LeWitt, plus the intimacy of time spent researching, exploiting, and exploring materials and building sculpture that you can only find through your passion as an individual artist clocking hours in the studio. All the boxes on the walls of JAYJAY are miniature installations!
Then, Mitra told me about incoming Verge artist Emily Wilson. To make her large format etchings, Emily repeatedly prints and modifies the same plate until her print is done. She occasionally goes back and hand-colors them. Many of the prints are abstract images with little representational parts added in, like animals or chairs. She does the largest multi-plate etchings I have ever seen. But she is a master printer, afterall.
I noticed that Verge artist Gioia Fonda was working more simply in black and white. I said the drawings looked looser and less intense than the small, patterned paintings I know her for, but Mitra explained that they’re not. She explained that Gioia’s black and white works are just as complex. They are constructed from photos Gioia took of piles of trash laid out on the curb after people get evicted from their house. The photos are cut up, rearranged, and immaculately rendered in the same way as the paintings.
I hadn’t heard of Mark Boguski before, but I did like his bulbous ceramics and thought they were complimentary to the other art around them.
If you would like to see ‘Summer in the City’ for yourself, JAYJAY is located at 5520 Elvas Avenue,
Sacramento, CA 95819. Their hours are Wednesday – Saturday 11am-4pm. But hurry! The show closes Saturday, August 7th.