Mel Davis, Justine Lo, Christopher Nickel, Toru Sugita, Anne Subercaseaux, and Patricia Thomas are featured in a small exhibition entitled Lines, Lanes, and Planes, "a meditation," says the press release, "on lines and planes, how they relate to one another formally, and how they constitute the built environment in which we live. The "lanes" in the show's title refers to paths of movement through the modern urban landscape. There are certainly differences in the artists' approaches, but their commonalities — uncluttered compositions (for the most part) and restrained palettes — make for an eclectic but unified show that invites leisurely reflection (not always easy in this sunny Telegraph Avenue storefront) and eschews the usual summertime group-show laissez-faire.
With reductive artwork, everything counts. Davis' "Untitled Green" is the largest painting in the show, a monochromatic plane of dark, deep forest green that is simultaneously somber and luxuriant. Lo's vertical-format abstractions feature vertical bands of gray slowly undulating through beige backgrounds; "Cold Mountain" probably refers to Brice Marden's monochromatic painting series based on the poet Han Shan rather than to Charles Frazier's Civil War novel. Nickel's interest in the "never-ending struggle [between] ... Man's contrived construction and Nature's inexorable course" finds form in his "Horizon" color photographs in which streaked and mottled concrete walls intersect a ground plane of asphalt or a reflective "lake" of standing water — romantic landscapes amid urban squalor. Sugita's etchings (with aquatint and drypoint) also find beauty in humble places; his noontime stairwells engage with their shadows to create satisfying syntheses of line and shape, light and dark, depiction and abstraction. For this show, he constructed a web-like installation from cord and iron weights that divides the view outside into polygonal windows.
Subercaseaux takes on the urban scene in oil paintings based on her in-transit photos of the Bay Bridge, soon to be destroyed by humans, pre-empting Nature (or so we hope); her three "Reflections on Crossing" paintings are close-up views of railings, pavement, curbs, lane stripes, and the shadows of beams and girders; they infuse engineered structures with the "sense of mystery and calm" we associate with unspoiled nature. Thomas' powerful charcoal studies of knots ("Bowline," "Square Knot," "Circle of Commitment"), deriving from her interest in women's hairdos, symbolize the ties that bind — or slip — in more or less contingent human relations. Lines, Lanes, and Planes runs through August 14 at Slate Contemporary Art and Design Gallery (4770 Telegraph Ave., Oakland). 510-652-4085 or www.SlateArtandDesign.com