Group shows are usually fairly lacking in the coherence department: big on quantity and small on voice. Not so the Environmental Art Exhibition now up at The Gallery at Tacoma Community College. With some 25 participating artists (students, staff, community) it’s certainly varied. But curator Jennifer Olson-Rudenko’s overarching theme attracts a general irony of beauty amid destruction, binding the show into a meaning all group shows should aspire to.
That said, it’s a fairly uneven show. There’s the highly provocative, like Carson Murdach’s intricate apocalyptic ink-and-wash drawings of mutating cities, the identical box houses expanding infinitely over themselves and their burnt-out landscapes in fiercely soul-destroying symmetry. Then there’s the placidly bland: Sarah Kemp Waldo’s coast-scene acrylics, looking like they’d sell better at Cannon Beach.
Kyle Dillehay’s intriguing, walnut-like pods of dirt-filled iron make a far bolder statement than Bret Lyon’s chunky sphere of recycled wood. Julia Haack does better with that material, her sinuous curves sit as stylish as a Frank Gehry chair on the wall.
There’s Jason Sobottka’s usual eloquence, his wood-and-print environment subtle on the topic of habitat encroachment, a complete contrast to the blinding obviousness (and ill-proportion) of Dorothy McCuistion’s acrylics on the same topic. Jenni Denekas’ food-tray of plastic cows also gets too preachy.
Best marks go to the photographers. Kirsten Marie Lawson brings beautifully twisted bark into almost 3-D focus, and Zachary Mazur’s mediations on the stunning emptiness of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation hit a pinnacle of surreal realism: a school-desk in a river, a toxic sunset.
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays through February 27. Enter off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred Streets. Free. 253-460-4306, www.tacomacc.edu/thegallery/