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Relief, Mourning and Animal Crackers

Sacramento’s atmospheric pressure seems to drop near Gunther’s Ice Cream shop. 

Whether risking life and limb on Sutterville’s non-existent cycle lane or cruising, high-profile on Broadway, one can always dip into the Franklin Oasis and sense immediate relief. Between the Hideaway dive-bar on Second Avenue and Nick’s Appliances on Fifth, Franklin Boulevard hosts a number of cool, long established businesses.

Nestled in the Oasis, one might be lucky enough to encounter Tangent Art Gallery. An “artist-run gallery/studio space,” the Tangent takes the art of disparate pioneers–students, teachers, professionals and outcasts–and provides room for each to breathe.  This month’s show, Fauna, is filled with melancholy. 

Laurie Rindall’s Dodo bird character, drawn in graphite, searches amongst vestiges of human consumption (an empty cigarette pack, a dribbling oil carton) atop a hill. The drawing, titled “Sysyphus,” lays serious blame to mankind. We are, so to speak, the Zeus, condemning poor Dodo (nature) to the maddening, futile labor of scavenging for food amidst our trash. Far below the bird’s hilltop perch, a brutally hatched interpretation of city streets lurches off into a vague horizon, offering no hope and no answers. If this grim portrait of humanity depresses you, don’t worry.

Two manic counterpoints scream out from Mark Niemeyer’s baboon drawings on the gallery’s west wall, reassessing man’s place in the animal kingdom. “Bob ‘The Screamer’ Boon,” a formidable male force, shrieks directly into the viewer’s face. The primate’s hostility jerks free from its oil pastel medium, delivered through a peripheral assault of red and violet scribbles.

However, upon closer inspection of the beast’s sloped eyelids and tilted head, there lives a baboon who is perhaps more sleepy than outraged.

“Bonnie ‘Crybaby’ Boon” in her field of blue scribbles projects a less furious energy and her wildness is also betrayed by those passive,  gleaming brown eyes.

Be careful of the paper fish on the floor, near Bonnie. The crudely shaped piece of floor-paper is not quick to impress, that is, until the full breadth of Ilah Cookston’s installation is realized. The fish’s eyes receive two slender chains of teardrop cutouts from above, two suspended monuments of patience and repetition, which terminate in the corresponding eyes of a hovering bird. Visually ascending the chain primes the viewer for “Lesson 1,” which is wrought with synthesis. Drawings of different species blend with bits of text, with the gallery’s walls, and with a variety of incarnated objects–light fixtures, power cords and plugs–all shaped in the painstaking medium of crumpled paper, connected with string and adorned with hanging block-printed mandalas. The text, handwritten and mounted sporadically within the installation, nearly displaces the work’s mystery, but these flash folk stories and fables seem appropriate in Cookston’s “Lesson.”

Then there is the wheel-boat.

A hull with two wheels in back and one in front, brown fur covering its deck, antlered-animal scull mounted on top, alongside a yellow window crank from an old car. Miguel Willet’s untitled sculpture measures approximately sixteen inches and baffles with its carefully-executed absurdity.  I worried as the $450 piece rolled dangerously close to the edge of its display as guests walked past, but the gallery owners assured me that it would not fall.

Such was the delicate balance of Fauna, which addressed the topic of animal life in unique, spontaneous fashion. The well-lit reception, with animal crackers, friendly crowd, and plenty of wine, was a delightful human habitat–an homage to the animal with the power to interpret. 

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