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Airplane Show @ b. sakata garo

Matt Bult, Tail Dragger, box springs
 
Probing the physical, moral and metaphoric dimensions of flight, the Airplane Show features a group of mostly Northern California artists whose roots trace to the 1960s and 1970s.  A mix of Conceptualism and Funk, it delivers an abundance of that all-too-rare commodity: serious fun.  
 
Five excellent examples greet you at the gallery’s front door.  John Buck’s Eye in the Sky, a kinetic wood sculpture, simulates drone warfare by allowing viewers to pull a string that releases a make-believe bomb.

Tom Marioni, Untitled, heavy paper

William Wiley’s untitled collage from 1960– an array of verbal and visual puns set against an altered image of a plane crash — speaks to the unforeseen consequences of technological progress. Gyöngy Laky, evoking flight’s more ethereal aspects, inserts a “flock” of pins into a wall to spell out the word “air.” Tom Marioni, with what is the exhibit’s most economical gesture, hangs a stack of paper from the ceiling, allowing it to assume the shape of a large wing.  Richard Feese, an under-recognized Sacramento sculptor of extraordinary skill and imagination, fashions a fabulous bird out of aluminum, rubber and tin. 

Funk is also on display in Matt Bult’s Tail Dragger, a twisted mass of rusty box springs that calls to mind Jean Tinguely.  Phil Linhares, the Oakland Museum’s former chief curator, uses cardboard, wood, cork and found objects to craft a rough looking scale-model of a 1928 aircraft.  Painted

Tony May and Chris Daubert, Heir Planes

 metallic silver, it hangs menacingly from the rafters, looking, like a marriage of a seaplane and a crop duster. 

The show’s knockout piece, Heir Planes, comes from Tony May and Chris Daubert, conceptualists and master woodworkers whose history stretches to the 1970s when Daubert was a student of May’s at San Jose State.  Their collaboration consists of an enclosure framed on two ends by stationary doors, resembling a see-through sukkah booth.  From its “rafters” hang 29 vintage wood planing tools, all inherited or purchased second-hand; hence the title. Suspended in formation at different elevations, they evoke a squadron of ascending aircraft, a breathtaking transformation that encapsulates what these two artists do best, which is to create multivalent works that mix sensory confusion with feats of craft and engineering. 
 
The exhibit also includes works by: Mike and Issac Henderson, Gale Wagner, Tom and Wheeler Bills, Peter Stegall, Irving Marcus, Gustavo Ramos Rivera, Jack Ogden, Mel Prest, Jerry Barrish, Frank LaPena, Garry Bennett, Tamara Berdichevsky, Ambrose Pillphister, Barry Sakata and Robin McDonnell.  Click here to see more photos. 
–DAVID M. ROTH
 
“Airplane Show” @ b. sakata garo through January 31, 2015. 
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