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Art Ltd Review, May 2007

SANTA CLARA, SANDY WALKER at the Triton Museum of Art

Featured in this show of Oakland-based artist Sandy Walker are two series of large wood-block prints of figures in motion. Based on drawings of models moving around his studio, they highlight the artist's interest in dance, which parallels his longstanding involvement with landscape: space and movement are central concerns. The light-filled central gallery of the Triton Museum, which serves as a hub for the various parts of the building, is an ideal setting for these process-oriented prints, which seem engaged in the activity around them. Indeed, through the lobby's curved, floor-to-ceiling windows, the bold black and white images carry effectively from across the adjacent park.

In transferring his drawings to slabs of plywood, Walker strives to give tangible form to qualities of energy and time. The laborious process of cutting and printing the images - as opposed to the spontaneous activity of drawing - lends gravity to the flow of gestures. Walker hand-cuts the slabs, many as large as 47" x 60", with a remarkable sense of gestural economy. Splintering eliminates subtle inflections; very little in the carved marks can be called descriptive, yet Walker conveys a sense of intention to every part of the body. One actual wood block is included in the exhibition; its imposing physicality serves to highlight the ephemeral energy of the prints themselves, which are clipped unframed to the walls.

One series, the Judith Suite, comprises smaller prints with single white figures on black backgrounds. Like snapshots, these freeze action in a position of tension and emphasize unique, sometimes melodramatic gestures. The second series, 'Humans Being', involves figures in multiple poses. These, as the title implies, have more the quality of everyday life; in some, a sequence of successive poses is obvious, while in others the overlaying of bodies in movement leads to a densely woven network of lines. The woodblock process generalizes the subjects - we often can't tell if they're nude - while it prolongs and extends their movement. They suggest a realm of abstract autonomy, yet enough remains of the rhythms and constraining contours of the body to lend poignancy to their gestures

Hearne Pardee

'Humans Being 4'

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