San Francisco

Alexander Nepote, James D. Estey, and Ruth Rippon

Barrios Gallery, Sacramento

Nepote has won an enviable number of awards in both oils and watercolors, and has done so without having changed either style or subject matter to any great extent for more than a decade.

The development of his present idiom was gradual. At first concerned with the scarred and tattered facades of abandoned buildings in the Mother Lode ghost towns, he abstracted them to near decorations, using wonderfully transparent water-color washes or black-lined oil stains. Yet he was seemingly frustrated by an inability to penetrate the subject. Then, he discovered the alpine level of the Sierra Nevada, with its grey glacial debris, snow banks, plunging streams and eternal struggle between force and resistance. Here, too, was a “natural” for his concern with structures—where realism and abstraction found a common ground. Nepote has been exploiting it ever since, although to this show he has added paintings of Southwest canyon details, done with the same approach but with the addition of earth reds and oranges to his palette.

Nepote paints with watercolor over a collage surface of torn paper which adds the excitement of a tactile surface to the picture. However, his technique is never obvious. He manages, within the framework of a spare vocabulary, to suggest mystery, suspense, and an awareness of those forces of nature that at once alert and reassure.

Estey, from Eldorado, is relatively new to the exhibition field, and his landscapes are presented in a fresh and stimulating manner. His emphasis on vegetation and “ground cover” makes a nice foil for the bare bones of nature favored by Nepote.

In her skillfully done ceramics, Ruth Rippon risks becoming a more proficient potter than creative artist. She has carried manual skill about as far as it can go.

––Elizabeth M. Polley