Outlandish: Contemporary Depictions of Nature comprises a national competition, featuring 62 artists and juried by SFMOMA Assistant Curator Alison Gass, and a mostly regional invitational, featuring 28 artists (many familiar East Bay names) and organized by Bedford Gallery Curator Carrie Lederer. The 160 artworks range from drawing to social practice, providing a comprehensive look at Mother Biosphere; yet, despite its size and sprawl, Outlandish is attractively installed, affording fine views to the art-hiker.
The show surveys contemporary art practice as well. While some artists adhere to a traditional or modified realism (Wrenay Gomez Charlton, Vicky Mei Chen, Julia Nelson-Gal), others incline toward lyricism or fantasy (Tony Bellaver, Tyler Bewley, John Casey), often with an ironic bent. Still others move into abstraction (Jenny E. Balisle, Tyrell Collins, Lisa Espenmiller) and conceptualism (Mari Andrews, Tim Armstrong, Vaughn Bell).
Some of the artists who live outside the area or have simply not been shown or reviewed locally deserve special mention. Arthur Bell's "Your Station from Paradise" depicts a quadrupedal robot, a jury-rigged contraption escapee from low-budget science fiction, playing a harp for listeners in terrestrial Radioland. Tiffany Bozic's dreamlike "Traveling Light" portrays two embracing red ants, crowned with tiny stilt houses and palm trees, hovering above a herd of swimming water buffalo. Gary Brewer's "Lush Morphologies" depicts immensely magnified, hyperreal orchids and lichens. Joel Frudden's "Volume" presents a wilderness landscape beneath an arboreal proscenium arch and overlaid with a loudness digital display. Striking color photos by Aaron Rosenstreich ("Division") and Henrik Kam ("Warm Water Cove — Tire Beach") make the case for and against human-built structures. A couple of sculptures overtly address political and ecological issues: Michael Kerbow's "Conquest," a postcolonial globe, portrays the planet covered with raw-meat continents; Jan Blythe's "Stack" resembles stacked firewood transformed somehow into glittering but carcinogenic coal. Don't miss a trio of low-key, hypnotic videos by Teresa Cuniff ("Beast"), Lee Hunter ("Regional Parks — Slow Moving"), and Kim Turos ("Cellula"). Catalog available. Outlandish runs through September 4 at Bedford Gallery (1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek). 925-295-1417 or BedfordGallery.org