where art meets the streets

Of the several calendar‑marking events on this spring’s fine‑art
slate, the most significant moment is a grand celebration
of — pardon the dubious L‑word — “local art.” The newly gifted
segment of the famous Berkus art collection, a treasure trove
passing into the ownership of the County of Santa Barbara, is an
eye‑opening selection of contemporary work by gifted and
risk‑taking artists who live, and have lived, in the locality of
Santa Barbara. This exhibition, along with others this spring, make
the scene fairly resplendent with art new and old, traditional and
tradition‑busting, and generally worth getting away from the home
entertainment center to check out.

Nicole Strasburg: 40+40@40 In which the
distinctive landscape painter finds herself at the age of 40, with
a mature sense of how to both personalize and pay homage to the
power of our planetary home and its natural forces, especially
concerning the meeting point of land and sea. Forty paintings on
birch and 40 on paper show an artist who has also apparently found
herself, both in terms of an expressive language to call her own,
and a national career that has begun to take off nicely in the last
few years. Through March 30; Sullivan Goss, 7 E. Anapamu St.;
730‑1460.

Point. Click. Laugh! When humor meets art in
any deliberate way, the result can be amusing, and also sometimes
less than artful or subtle. But in the upcoming group exhibition at
the Jewish Community, Point. Click. Laugh!, we’re already prone to
give it the benefit of the doubt, given an artist list including
such prominent names in photography as Mary Ellen Mark, Duane
Michaels, Joel Meyerowitz and our man of screen, song, and assorted
artistic sideline pursuits, Jeff Bridges. Through May 26; Jewish
Community Center, 524 Chapala St.; 957‑1115.

Renaissance to Rococo: Masterpieces from the Collection
of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
Indisputably a
blockbuster exhibition, this dazzling gathering of old masters and
breathtaking canvases descends on SBMA courtesy of the most
venerable museum in America, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford,
Connecticut. Normally, you’d have to pay a visit to these works’
home, but a rare road show of some of the greatest pieces in the
collection ends its journey in Santa Barbara. Lucky for us: Proceed
from the exhibition’s frontispiece of Giovanni Paolo Panini’s
wowing “Interior of a Picture Gallery with the Collection of
Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga” through the SBMA galleries
containing Orazio Gentileschi’s intense “Judith and Her Maidservant
with the Head of Holofernes,” brooding significa by Caravaggio,
Tiepolo, and breezier fare by Goya, François Boucher, and Franz
Hals. Through May 28; S.B. Museum of Art, 1130 State St.;
963‑4364.

Barry Berkus and Family Art Collection: Inaugural
Exhibition, in memory of Gail Berkus
There may be no finer
flyover exhibition dealing with contemporary art in Santa Barbara
during the past 25 years than this, an inspiring and substantial
piece of the respected art collection amassed by architect Barry
Berkus and his late wife Gail. As of now, Berkus has generously
bequeathed more than 60 works, all made by current or one‑time
Santa Barbarans, to the County of S.B. An inaugural sampler show is
opening at the Channing Peake, and the collection promises to
expand as it goes. The Berkuses’ eyes are refined and also game for
a dare or two: The quality in the selection runs hot, as does the
sense that Santa Barbara’s artistic product is greater than the sum
of its showcasing opportunities. Mar. 24‑May 2; Channing Peake
Gallery, County Admin. Bldg., 105 E. Anapamu St.

Journey: Dan Eldon’s Images of War and Peace
Dan Eldon was a celebrated young photojournalist who was
inadvertently stoned in Somalia in 1992, an idealistic 22‑year‑old
whose work ironically helped alert attention to the tragic civil
war there. While Eldon wasn’t an artist in the traditional sense,
he brought an artist’s sensibilities to his profound sense of
purpose and engagement in work and life — and in fighting to awaken
the world to the plight of global neighbors, especially in Africa.
A special exhibition of Eldon’s images, scrapbooks, and journal
entries is being presented at the University Art Museum, at a time
when young artists and activists are finding their own conscience
about global politics being sparked. Additional events: Opening
reception, Tue., Apr. 4, 5‑7pm, UAM, with Rosie O’Donnell,
photographer Nick Ut and author/editor Jennifer New; lunch with
Kathy Eldon, founder, Creative Visions Foundation, Mon., Apr. 10,
11:30am‑1pm; Dying to Tell the Story, documentary by Dan’s sister,
Amy Eldon, Thu., Apr. 20, 6‑8:30pm, Isla Vista Theater; gallery
talk, curator Natalie Sanderson, Thu., May 11, 6pm. Show exhibits
Apr. 5‑May 14; UCSB’s University Art Museum; 893‑7564.

Plant Portraits: The California Legacy of A. R.
Valentien
Eighty watercolors of native California plants
and flowers by this dynamic early 20th‑century master of the genre.
The exhibition is rotating, opening on April 12 with depictions of
grasses and ferns, changing May 3‑21 to wildflowers, and ending May
24‑June 11, with trees and other flowers. Apr. 12‑June 11; Wildling
Art Museum, 2329 Jonata St., Los Olivos; 688‑1082. E.V.
Day: Intergalactic Installation
Contemporary Arts Forum
has been especially conceptual‑minded under its current management,
bringing in some disarming surprises in terms of media and end
effects, often best appreciated under prolonged scrutiny. Next up
on the CAF agenda is New York‑based artist E.V. Day’s Intergalactic
Installation, a sculptural installation art project reportedly
brushing up against themes of rocket science and post‑feminist
concerns. In the Bloom Projects corner gallery, CAF presents Jesse
Bradford’s Of Two and Three, a newly commissioned, mythologically
based mural, with spillover into the Glassbox gallery. Apr. 22‑June
18; Contemporary Arts Forum, 653 Paseo Nuevo; 966‑5373.

Taking Root: A Century of Migrant Workers in
California
The subject of migrant workers in California
has intrigued curious and compassionate photographers for decades,
going back beyond Horace Bristol’s legendary photo essay with John
Steinbeck, which led the writer to create The Grapes of Wrath. In
this modest survey of the subject viewed in a century‑long
historical context, examples are culled from the WPA and FSA
photography field studies and more contemporary sources as images
from César Chávez’s march to Sacramento. Apr. 22‑Aug. 6; S.B.
Museum of Art, 1130 State St.; 963‑4364.

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