Visual Arts Review | Thru Dec. 31 Group shows with a thematic thread can often provide an interesting departure point for contemplation. What drives the creative process? Ideas generated from without, or from within? In Primary Colours" latest art-for-a-cause group effort, both ideas are at play: In the cleverly conceived Toys exhibit (a reprise from last year) at J. Martin Gallery, which includes the work of roughly two dozen artists, the concept of "toys" is interpreted in a multitude of ways. Some of these are a tad on the obvious side, while others are more challenging. It also must be said that in a couple of cases, the interpretation of "toys" is irreverently and overtly sexual. (This could be problematic only if children are brought to the exhibit, their parents unaware of the adult nature of some of these toys.)
Work by Nathan Purath is included in the Primary Colours/J. Martin Gallery show of "Toys."
But despite the silliness and, in some cases, prurience of some artists" interpretation of the "toys" concept, there"s a higher purpose at work. Primary Colours, a not-for-profit group of artists who mount shows for the benefit of various arts education efforts, is selling these works of art for the benefit of children in Afghanistan. Gallery attendant Brian Priest shared with me that about $300 worth of art supplies, donated the night of the Toys exhibit opening, are being shipped to children in Afghanistan via Primary Colours member Robert Evans III, who is stationed there with the U.S. military. An additional few hundred dollars have been collected towards the cause as well, some of this coming from the sale of artwork. Because of the urgency of the situation - some would say creative expression is imperative to a child"s development - there seems to be an occasional freshness to the work that is less about being clever than about making something of lasting value. Hadley Evans" "Soft Car," a smallish, three-dimensional sculpture (of unknown ceramic-like media) depicting a Volkswagen bug-type vehicle with three porcelain heads, is both whimsical and maturely conceived. The same holds true for David Kleeman"s "Bulldog," also a three-dimensional work; in this case, Kleeman composes a three-wheeled vehicle out of old parts. The wheels from a chair, perhaps, are combined with other heavy metal functional objects - although their former functions are no longer obvious. Kleeman"s aesthetic is tailor made for this type of show: He has long been crafting such playful constructions - and he does so thoughtfully. Along a different aesthetic line, Crystal Horton"s "Mr. Hatakyam"s Marionette Show" is a more serious interpretation of the toy theme. In the drawing (again, of unknown media), an angry looking black woman is being manipulated by an unseen hand. Mike Brown has also employed the marionette theme; his piece "Play With My Bush" makes a puppet of George Bush. These more political pieces, alongside the more straightforward "toys" - such as Clarke Dennis" "Kite," a metal (bronze?) kite, and Becky Wilson"s "Portrait of a Keypie," a painting of the head of a misty, soft-faced doll - provide an effective balance, overall, between hard and soft. (The type of mediums used, however, were universally absent from the wall cards; for some of us, this is useful information.) More important, artists here are making art for a higher purpose. Primary Colours brings together new, emerging and more established artists for a cause few could argue - and we"re given something more to think about in the process. No doubt the artists had fun. Toys, presented by Primary Colours, is on view at J. Martin Gallery, 874 Virginia Ave., through Dec. 31; call 916-2874 for information. Artists include: Nathan Purath, Jeremy Tubbs, Mike Graves, Stuart Sager, Drew Endicott, Dale Burnstein, Mike Brown, Tony Garcia, Darren Strecker, Becky Wilson, Kyle Hayworth, Barbara Horlander, Crystal Horton, Josh Johnson, Kyle Ragsdale, Brent Woodall, Fred Shields, Mike Smith, Michelle Graves, David Kleeman, Anthony Radford, Hadley Evans, Clarke Dennis and James Darr.