‘Real Women’ and ‘Pattern Recognition’ at Sullivan Goss

Two Great Shows That Center Women’s Art

Left: “Dissent” by Niki Byrne; right: “Jungle Elephant” by Claudia Borfiga

As we count down the days until Santa Barbara reaches the red tier and museums open again, it’s a delight to relish the freedom to operate that pandemic quarantine rules have given to our city’s excellent art galleries. At Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery, on Anapamu Street, visitors can catch two great shows featuring some of the top artists in our region, all of whom happen to be women. In the front room until March 22, there’s an exceptionally interesting show called Pattern Recognition that features three mid-career artists whose work takes decorative abstraction as a point of departure for innovative painting and printmaking. Although Julika Lackner’s geometric paintings bear a superficial relationship to mosaic and tile work, sustained attention reveals a sensibility rooted in the alchemy of texture and palette. The large, vertically oriented “Mountain of the Sun 8” from 2020 offers a spiritual vision that’s as uplifting as the chords of a gospel choir.

Yumiko Glover’s vocabulary of forms draws equally from flowers and digital distortion. Multi-panel compositions like “Transience II” (2019) deploy horizontal stripes over a field of succulent shapes in a way that pleasurably confounds one’s initial impression of figure and ground.

Claudia Borfiga’s serigraphs introduce charming and recognizable images of lizards, elephants, and one deeply impressive “Jungle Cow” into the pattern conversation by embedding them within decorative backdrops inspired by Indian textiles. Taken together, Borfiga’s deceptively modest prints deliver a master class in color, composition, and style. Although they share a sensibility that makes them an excellent match for one another, these three artists had not met before the show. It’s a triumph of curation that such a successful combination of talents was realized at a time when in-person studio visits and openings were off limits.

The same could be said with perhaps even greater emphasis about the ambitious group show called Real Women: Realist Art by American Women that occupies the gallery’s center space. Thankfully, this one will be on the walls until April 26, offering viewers plenty of time to schedule multiple visits to a richly rewarding exhibition. While many of the artists, such as Dorothy Churchill-Johnson, Patricia Chidlaw, and Leslie Lewis Sigler, will be familiar to those who follow the Santa Barbara scene, some of them are making their Sullivan Goss debut. For example, Jordan Marshall’s exemplary technique as a painter of intriguing botanical still lifes was developed while she was recently enrolled at Westmont College. And Niki Byrne, whose “Dissent,” a bold portrait of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has become something of a viral sensation, has been a race car driver, a licensed helicopter pilot, and a feature film director all before she’s out of her twenties. Look for her film Evan Wood to premiere in the upcoming Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

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