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Sketching Out an Art Form

Oliveria Gallery shows drawing the respect it deserves

Emerging as the little gallery that could, Oakland's Lizabeth Oliveria strikes again with yet another powerhouse show of accomplished illustrators that includes the Harvey award-wining Daniel Clowes, local artist Geoff Chadsey, internationally-known Marcel Dzama, accomplished Canadian Neil Farber, and Yerba Buena Center alum Jason Jagel. Determined to prove the legitimacy of their medium, these five young talents show that drawing is an art form in its own right by showcasing seriously intriguing and profound work.

Easily the best-known artist featured in the show, illustrator Daniel Clowes has become something of a cult icon since Hollywood adapted his graphic novel Ghost World into one of indie cinema's biggest hits, starring Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi. Clowes works in a classic comic-book style and infuses his narratives with a smart-ass twist. Clowes' drawings plunge you into a fascinatingly corrupt world of sexual confusion and family dysfunction, all seen through the eyes of a suburban, middle-class, adolescent boy. This show includes half a dozen examples of Clowes' work, including selections from Eightball and David Boring, two of the artist's more recent projects.

Boston-born Jason Jagel, soon to be anointed with an MFA from Stanford, works in acrylic and pencil to create works that elevate the notebook-margin doodle to the status of high art. Working in such an accessible mode, Jagel frees himself up to confront more directly his issues of choice including the corruption of society, sex, death, and love by creatively juxtaposing fantasy and reality. Jagel's works are brimming with ambiguity and contradiction, which adds depth to a medium that some might consider shallow. Some Underbelly, for example, depicts a young couple walking hand in hand down a dimly lit street while random lewd sex acts occur all around them, thus setting off the excitement of young love with the vulgarity of casual sex.

San Francisco's own Geoff Chadsey displays Boxer, a large colored-pencil-on-vellum rendering of a rotund man lounging in his bedroom wearing only an unflattering pair of underwear and a sneer. Chadsey uses a cross-hatching technique to create images like Boxer that are surprisingly intimate, at once sexy and vulgar. Love 'em or hate 'em, Chadsey's oddly seductive portraits are images you won't soon forget.

Renowned illustrator Marcel Dzama also lends a half-dozen untitled pieces to this show, united by a common style and Dzama's own unusual medium root beer. Dzama uses root beer as watercolor with a fine ink outline to create his unique realities inhabited by costumed men and women, bears and wolves ready to do battle, and amphibious creatures dressed to the nines in three-piece suits. Taking a cue from his University of Manitoba classmate Dzama, Neil Farber also uses ink and watercolor to build an equally haunting parallel universe in his drawings, where he explores themes like childhood, death, innocence, loss, and fear.

Tackling important themes in surprisingly profound ways, each illustrator featured in this show combines the straightforward simplicity and accessibility of the drawing medium with the maturity and complexity of a fully realized artist. The result is a little gallery show that packs a big punch and goes a long way toward proving that drawing, far from being just a step in a larger process, is a fine art in its own right and deserves recognition as such.

The Drawing Show, featuring Daniel Clowes, Geoff Chadsey, Marcel Dzama, Neil Farber & Jason Jagel runs through May 25th at Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, 942 Clay Street, Oakland CA 94607. Gallery Hours are Tuesday - Saturday 11 am - 5:30 pm. Admission is free. Call 510.625.1350 or visit lizabetholiveria.com for more info. Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery
942 Clay Street
Oakland, CA 94607
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11 am - 5:30 pm
Phone: 510.625.1350
Website: lizabetholiveria.com