Ann Diener’s “Celebrating Miss Elaine ’12”

The direction Elaine Esbeck sent out to the artists included in this show was a simple one — “expound on numbers between 1 and 15” — but, due to the company she keeps, the responses were anything but predictable. Frame has occupied the corner storefront at 901 De la Vina and Canon Perdido streets for 15 years, and in that time, Esbeck has cultivated and shown many of the top artists in Santa Barbara, all while continuing to craft exquisite frames and cases for clients of all kinds right out in the open of the gallery’s single large room. Ann Diener, whose many honors include an impressive American Academy in Rome Visiting Artist residency, strikes exactly the right note with her intricate drawing titled “Celebrating Miss Elaine ’12.” It’s smart and beautiful — how appropriate.

Esbeck maintains a tight connection to the assemblage scene that is much in evidence here, as well. Dan Levin is in here, as are Dug Uyesaka with three pieces, Susan Tibbles with two, and Tony Askew with three. Askew’s “6 Moon Rising” boxes a Muybridge-like nude ascending a staircase in with an assortment of other images, tubes, and whatnot for a very powerful impact. His work, which has always been exemplary of the highly refined Santa Barbara assemblage aesthetic, continues to impress with its exuberant multiplicity. Hugh Margerum’s painting “Breaking Bad #7” delivers a playful punch in the nose of color in his characteristic relaxed expressionist idiom.

One of the more striking departures from the expected comes from Nicole Strasburg, who has contributed three sets of images, all of them depicting mid-century modern chairs. There’s one set of three wooden tiles with images of chairs printed on them, but there are also two wonderful sets of five and seven hand-carved rubber stamps. How cool would it be for a teacher to be able to stamp those homework assignments with a nice Breuer or Eames chair?

Susan Savage calls the subtle, mesmerizing still life of a silver bowl she is showing “Chosen One,” raising all kinds of questions and associations. For sheer poetry of the black-and-white, Americana school, it’s hard to beat Dana Tynan’s “One of a Kind: Johnny Cash / Chateau Marmont 1997.” And yes, Cash is holding a guitar in that. Over on the opposite wall, Chris Wright has a pair of intriguing photographs, one of which, “Three of Four,” channels William Eggleston through an odd angle on a naked-looking streetlight. Jacqueline Woods’s sculptural book, called “A Dozen Days & Nights,” would seem to reference the great and influential Black Sun Press of Harry Crosby but may also have nothing to do with it, as in a dream. Taken together, these widely varying images achieve unity by each embodying the impulse to acknowledge the great contribution that Esbeck has made to the arts in our community. As in the title of Askew’s clever assemblage repurposing of a single glove, we all owe Esbeck and Frame a big “Hi Five.”


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