Theater & Arts

ArtHop galleries honor Saroyan

February ArtHop Night No. 1 -- we're all adjusting to this new format of two nights per month -- ventured into William Saroyan-inspired motifs, metal impressions and religious imagery.

The first Thursday of the month for ArtHop now focuses solely on downtown Fresno and the Tower District. At Gallery 25 and the Fig Tree Gallery, it's space time for writer Saroyan in this centennial year of his birth in Fresno.

One chat-stoking piece, at Gallery 25's full devotion to Saroyan, is "Tracy's Tiger" by Robert Weibel. He's been striving to master the use of gunpowder in his drawings. The result for this show is a flowing convergence of blasts and lines curved into an energetic mass of browns, black-browns and mustard yellows -- an Asian-looking tiger -- on a ream of construction paper.

Weibel says he became intrigued with the possibilities through the massive gunpowder pieces created by Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang. Weibel says that in this method, an artist is "using explosives for something creative instead of something destructive."

(The Saroyan reference, by the way, is from a play called "Tracy's Tiger" based on a Saroyan novella titled "The Barber Whose Uncle Had His Head Bitten Off by a Circus Tiger.")

Just a few steps away is Karen LeCocq's "I Used to Believe I Had Forever, Now I'm Not So Sure." (The title refers to a 1968 collection of Saroyan short stories.) The large multimedia piece features an image of the great man himself, his head resting against his right fist and his eyes downcast in a contemplative moment. LeCocq uses gads of material -- wood, bambo blind, an Asian broom, digital print on fabric, rusted steel, acrylic and wax -- to create an arresting piece of a famous man in near-final repose.

At Fig Tree, the back portion of the venue is devoted to Saroyan-spurred work. Bill Bruce, in an apparent ode to the writer's well-known penchant for riding a bicycle around Fresno, uses black inner tubes for three pieces. In "Circle of Tubes," for example, he tautly stretched and overlapped them over a square.

The Chris M. Sorensen Studio offers what you might call "The Two Bobs" show. It's a joint exhibition by Bob Gifford and Bob Levine, who became friends years ago while working at the Sorenson studio, and decided they wanted to show their stuff together.

A standout among Gifford's metal pieces is his whimsical "Indian Dancer." With its prickly spines jutting from various planes of metal sticking out in different directions, it looks positively substantial -- until you touch it. (We'd like to make the point that Bee arts reporter Donald Munro was given permission by Gifford to do so.) The various arms on the abstract figure are balanced so they wobble slightly. It's an amazing work practically begging you to reach out and feel the spines.

Levine's show, which he titles "The Mandala Series," consists both of paintings and sculptures. He's enamored of meticulously crafted circles, and he incorporates basic religious imagery (Jewish menorahs, Buddhist depictions, Hindu allusions) in works that have a vaguely Eastern and meditative feel. There's a determined symmetrical energy to much of his work.

Just one more reminder: The second February ArtHop night is the third Thursday of each month. Next Thursday, venues in Fig Garden, north Fresno and Clovis will be open to visitors. Information about participating ArtHop locations and shows can be found at fresnoarthop.org.

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