Oakland

Mercedes Gutierrez-McDermid, Calvin Tondre, Rolando Castellon, Jan Evans, Rita Yokoi and Joan Hanson

Oakland Museum of California (OMCA)

The Oakland Museum, which recently had a show by five black artists, seems to be seeking out the work of social groups that are underrepresented in museums. We have just had “Artes de la Raza,” presenting the work of 21 artists of Hispanic ancestry and culture, and a show by three women artists. Among the Chicanos, Mercedes Gutierrez-McDermid, who also happens to be a woman, was a real find. Her mixed-media construction The Definitive American Bull was a mischievously funny Rube Goldberg device, the work of a gifted humorist.

Also worthy of special mention is Calvin Tondre, whose 18 ink drawings, contemporary in technique, included several with subject matter drawn from the lives of the saints. Tondre is also responsible for New Mexican Altar, an overwhelming construction whose origins seem to include both Christian and non-Christian religion.

Rolando Castellon exhibited several oddly resonant paintings in charcoal and acrylic. Their symbolic. language may or may not be of Mexican Indian origin, but it is certainly not from the mainstream of American art. Castellon’s work disturbs the mind and haunts the memory.

In the other show at Oakland, I liked best the sculpture of Jan Evans, in aluminum and plexiglass. The typical piece consisted of a rectangular plexiglass enclosure within which small, neatly machined aluminum objects are mounted, the whole supported by the standard white wooden base of museum sculpture. When looked at from a distance these works give a remarkable effect: the plexiglass drops out of sight, and the aluminum objects seem to hang in the air, not directly related to the base but to the walls and floor and ceiling of the gallery. Evans has developed an arresting technique for displaying what might otherwise be genteel exercises in geometry, and I hope to see a one-woman show of her work.

Working in fired clay, Rita Yokoi uses forms that suggest the stems or stalks of plants, or nipples. They have a certain grandeur, partly because of their large size, and at the same time a certain domesticity: biology is awesome, but we are all living creatures and accustomed to that fact.

Each of the paintings shown by Joan Hanson consisted of a pair of slim, vertically composed canvases. Almost the entire area was painted dead white; areas of color were applied to the upper corners. The paintings seemed ethereal, and indeed hardly present in the gallery.

Jerome Tarshis