San Francisco

Wally Devlin, Freeman Gadberry and Ruth Surdez

Barrios Gallery, Sacramento

Devlin’s big yellows are the most exciting works in this group show of new names. It also includes fantasy abstractions by Gadberry and assemblages of found objects, mainly of kitchen origin, worked into relief sculptures with richly colored surfaces by Surdez.

Devlin pushes the yellow color to its extreme, in textured nonobjectives, and landscapes with figures. Yellow suggests the form of the triangle or pyramid with the point or apex down. As the color of highest visibility in the spectrum, it is sharp, angular and crisp in quality. Yet it does not have much weight, is more like light than substance, more spatial than solid. Devlin accepts these characteristics of the color as challenges, faces them squarely and at times defiantly, as in his abstraction of yellows as circles on rectilinear slabs (nearing orange). He uses texture to grey the yellow discs and prevent “spinning.” Unfortunately, the weak lighting of the east wall of the gallery nullifies any after-image, limiting appreciation of the fluctuating color. In Run West, Devlin exploits warm and cool yellows in undulating bands to indicate a shimmering phantom landscape. A nebulous figure, like a mirage, leads the viewer into a staggering concept of beckoning space. Tone juxtaposition develops a warm, dry, compelling incandescence that almost numbs the retina. Its rendering may have been too much even for the heliotropic Devlin—he has left one corner an open white, as if he couldn’t take the full force of his own creation. If his thought was to force attention into the picture, a pale creamy yellow would have been more persuasive. The chattering white canvas fractures, but does not break, the mood of the painting.

Elizabeth M. Polley