The notion of order versus chaos is a theme that has been around since at least biblical times. Ultimately, one can not create order without some form of chaos, and chaos has no meaning without order. This is certainly true in art, which is why it was chosen as the theme for Arts Benicia’s newest juried exhibition “Order + Chaos,” which opens tomorrow and will run through Sept. 11.
The exhibit, which features 20 artists’ interpretations of order and chaos, had been in the planning stages for a long time, according to Exhibitions and Programs Manager Mary Shaw. Arts Benicia’s exhibit committee had wanted to do an exhibit on the tumultuous process an artist goes through to create, with the working title being “Order/Disorder.”
“As it evolved, we had a hard time nailing that down conceptually,” Shaw said.
The show took on a new direction when exhibition member Michele-Rowe Shields was reading an article in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Pink section on the late British actor Alan Rickman’s last movie “A Little Chaos.”
“It had nothing to do with our concept, but there were a couple of quotes in there that said ‘Order comes from chaos,’’ Shaw said. “”You can’t have order without it,’ and that was sort of the launching point for us with this particular title ‘Order + Chaos.’”
To serve as juror for this exhibit, Rowe-Shields recruited Catharine Clark, who runs the Catharine Clark gallery in San Francisco. In addition, she taught for three years at the San Francisco Art Institute, lived abroad in London and Italy and authored an essay for the book “Ascending Chaos: The Art of Masami Teraoka 1966-2006,” which was published by Chronicle Books.
Clark and Shaw put out a national call to artists and received around 200 responses. Ultimately, 20 were chosen for the show, and their work will be featured at Arts Benicia for the next month. Among the featured artists are Toby Tover, Anne Garvey, Francis Chung, Ari Salomon, Emilee Yawn and more.
One of the things Shaw likes most about the exhibit is how unique the artists’ works are.
“You’ve got paintings, sculpture, drawing, photography, video art, and you’ve got abstraction and realism,” she said. “All of it is interpreted by the artist. Whatever their work is, they’re interpreting this idea of ‘Order + Chaos.’”
One example of this theme can be seen in two charcoal drawings by Ilena Tejada. One image is a nude self-portrait of her embracing a 53-inch teddy bear named Lester. Opposite this drawing is another one of Tejada being attacked by that same plush bear.
Other artists put unique spins on order and chaos. Joseph Mele had taken 20 years of shredded paper (chaos) and repurposed it into an 8-foot plastic tube (order). One of Elizabeth Bennett’s contributions was a 12-minute dash cam video of a car driving around a traffic circle with 37 traffic cones of various sizes and state being placed alongside it. At the start, the cones are seen progressively starting to rise out of the concrete, but the further she drives the more they start to disintegrate. Thomas Eric Stanton’s featured contribution is a scroll that is currently 154 inches long but will continue to unravel a little more every 10 days.
Shaw commends not only the quality of the work but also the risks the artists took to submit their work to a professional juror.
“It can be very hard when you’re not picked,” she said. “It’s such a brave thing to submit your work to a juried exhibition. All of these artists are so immensely brave, and I’m so honored that they put their work in this exhibition and they want to participate with Arts Benicia.”
“Order + Chaos” will have its opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 6 at Arts Benicia, located at 991 Tyler St., Suite No. 114. The show will be on display through Sunday, Sept. 11. Arts Benicia’s gallery is open from noon to 5 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. For more information, visit artsbenicia.org or call 747-0131.