Brady explores feelings rather than refinement
By Julia Couzins, Special to The Bee
It’s no secret that this region has a predilection for
figurative art. It has been difficult for abstraction
to gain regional traction. Perhaps this is because such
noted artists as Robert Arneson, Fred Dalkey,
Jack Ogden, Jerald Silva and Wayne Thiebaud have lived,
taught and worked here, influencing students and patrons
alike, or because the inherent marketability of figuration
predisposes its representation in gallery and museum shows.
The work of Robert Brady has steadfastly cut its own course
and exists between figuration and abstraction. His singularly
potent, reductive forms evoke the feeling of an entity, rather
than its representation. Brady does not concern himself with
well-practiced virtuosity. The meaning of his work is found
by working through things, not refining them. His direct and
elemental work gives form to psychological associations, becoming
the agent for empathy and what can be sensed from within, rather
than merely seen.
Brady, a Sacramento State University Art Department emeritus
faculty member, was first recognized as a ceramic sculptor,
but over the years he has expanded his practice, working in
wood, ceramic and bronze. This exhibit focuses on recent work
in wood, and showcases the extraordinarily delicate, attenuated
figurative work for which he is well-known. He uses a vocabulary
of shapes that are connotative – expanding and contracting,
capable of reinterpretation depending on scale and context.
They are derived from the world. Ever since an undergraduate
stint in Mexico where he was introduced to Pre-Columbian art,
Brady has internalized the precepts of art as an objectification
of the spiritual, and that every physical thing can possess power.
Three of the strongest works in the show are the moderately sized
to large-scale sculptures, “Teem” and “Teem, 2” (both 2017) and
“Bode” (2015). They are carved from pale, bleached wood.
The minimal, unadorned and elongated tubular forms possess
the animated gesture of writhing fish, either spawning upstream
or flipping and gasping for air in polluted water. Brady doesn’t
fuss with his surfaces. The carved and planed forms are articulated
with only flatly painted lamp black ovals for eyes. Black discs are
interlocked within the fish forms of “Bode,” suggesting disruptive
hurdles or metaphorical barriers to life. But their formal subtext,
linking mass to plane to line to space, is what lingers long after
the narrative has been absorbed. Their inherent abstraction is the
work’s abiding strength, and where I suspect Brady’s real interest
Critical to experiencing Brady’s work is the placement of work
within the room and how the viewer encounters it. The particular
height of work off the floor and its distance from the wall and
to other works create meaning and context. A group of long, slim,
Giacometti-esque standing figures is staged on pedestals individually
crafted to each figure. Titled “Angels,” they appear to loom and
lope – mute, inscrutable actors in the firmament between and slightly
above us. Like most of the work throughout the show, these lean figures
are deceptively simple. But simplicity is hard. This seems counterintuitive,
but simplicity requires acute attention to each nuance, tone and shape.
Everything matters. No aspect of the work is merely decorative or without
purpose, and once purpose is achieved, it is left to stand without equivocation.
A suite of small, wall-mounted quirky little men called “Marconis”
pay whimsical homage to the inventor of long-distance radio transmission.
Both rough-hewn and refined, they hang on the wall in a sitting position
but without a chair for support. Tall conical hats, wire wands and
pseudo-scientific oddments sprout from their heads. Using wood, flat
paint and scavenged bits of metal, the works appear doll-like, yet
possess an unexpectedly potent intensity as if they might be capable
of actual transmission.
Less interesting are small pedestal pieces of flying birds or
insects made from brushes or brooms. They’re clever and well done,
but without the searching urgency or necessity that the larger works
possess. Brady doesn’t need them. It is more than enough to encounter
the smart, terse large-scale sculpture that so succinctly activates the gallery.
Information: 916-447-4276; www.bsakatagaro.com
WHERE: b. sakata garo, 923 20th St.
WHEN: Noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays,through June 3
INFORMATION: (916) 447-4276