It sounds like a tenuous theme for a group show: Art with blue in it. But “Azul,” which opened last week at Tacoma’s B2 Fine Art Gallery, is anything but shallow. Instead it dives to sophisticated depths, sailing smoothly over diverse genres and media and covering a surprisingly wide range of emotion.
What helps is the gallery’s subdivided interior space. Usually problematic for the kind of group shows B2 likes to mount, the space this time helps the theme, offering quite separate visual areas for the half-dozen artists involved and allowing each of them room for more than the usual cursory one or two works.
The front room is occupied by Francisco Salgado and Susanna Rodriguez, and dives at once into the moody depths of the color. “Emocion Azul,” by the Mexican-born, Portland-based Salgado, is this show’s poster work and for good reason: The contorted, bunched muscles of this nude, sculpted in plaster and covered with tiny twigs in a coating of cobalt, speak eloquently of despair, confusion, depression. Just three feet high, this figure condenses human suffering into a wordless essence, prickly and naked.
Around the walls the Chilean painter Rodriguez captures the inhuman ambiguity of the city in moody Cubist works. Her bluey-gray buildings jumble together against angular clouds like tombstones or ship masts, occasionally lit with a harsh pink sunset or an eerily green shot of light.
Most of the other artists are local. In the next room artist (and occasional TNT theater critic) Alec Clayton combines stark shapes and rather bland primaries in his semi-abstract oils. None of it seems to say much, or even seem at all blue, except “totem,” whose grays and teals overlaid on a gray-green white grid are slashed through with a red strip like a broad, desperate swipe of blood.
Abstracts on a William Quinn wall in the corridor speak more subtly. Watery cobalts, jade and teal dialogue in fluid strokes. “Night Sky” shows stars and planets floating in deep midnight-blue space, textured by thin lines, in front of a square, heavy-set man with a perplexed angle to his back.
Opposite these are terrifically thick impastoed acrylics by Leonardo Lanzolla, where sea birds drip bloody red and yellow hearts through a harsh aqua sky; his nearby watercolors aren’t as strong.
Tucked away in another space are half-a-dozen of Judy Hintz Cox’ starkly minimalist oil/encaustics. Over pale white space float indigo-blue eggs and gray nest-circles; on others a thin blue line cuts across the milky nothingness like a despairing mind-state holding tenuously to clear reality.
Most striking – yet the least blue – are Salgado’s “Azules,” bronze feet with toes at one end and a Roman sandal strap at the other. Quite beautiful on their own, they come to photographic life in an aqua-tinted black and white by Salgado’s studio partner Kim Campbell of a dancer clad in Icarus wings, androgynous, naïve, melancholy – and wearing the “Azules” like a prophecy.
“Azul” is viewable 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday through Mar. 2. Free. B2Gallery, 711 St. Helens Ave. Suite 100, Tacoma. 253-238-5065, b2finearts.com