Opening of Mumm Paris Icons Art Exhibition
A world of art in Napa
March 17, 2010
“Paris Icons” is a collection of images of City of Light, including this one of the entrance to the Louvre, taken by James Scholz with accompanying copy written by Leslie J. Little.

Anyone who still thinks the Napa art scene is dominated by vineyard-loving landscape painters should take a tour of valley galleries this spring.

Among four major shows that are now up or about to open, only one — Sonoma County painter Alfredo Tofanelli’s one-man show at the Napa Valley Museum — includes landscapes as a significant part of the exhibition; and most of Tofanelli’s scenes are from outside of the county.

Napans' eye on local history

Napa artists are interested in a lot more than the county’s abundant land and light.

“Retrospect,” a first-of-its-kind group show, co-hosted by the Napa Valley Historical Society and the Wandering Rose arts coalition, offers a rare chance for a community to comment on its own history through many media, from painting and photography to sculpture, collage and even quilting.

Dozens of Napa County artists contributed to the show, with works as diverse as Nelda Heide’s dazzling quilt “Sunrise on Mt. George” and Zachary Geyer’s found-art construction “Well Used Barbie,” a reference to the city of Napa’s bygone days of riverside brothels and street prostitution.

More than one artist paid tribute to the birth of the loudspeaker, which two Napa inventors created more or less by accident in 1915 (they were trying for an improved radio transmitter, and wound up starting Magnavox).

Doug Hattala chose digital media to create his abstract print “Loudspeaker,” while the husband-and-wife team of James Byrum and Kristine Cummins looked to the past in their colorful, speaker-shaped sculpture “Wappovox: We Hear You.”

The couple’s piece insightfully pairs the invention of the technological “Great Voice” (“Magna Vox” in Latin) with the disappearance of the language of Napa’s native Wappo people.

“Though your words are no longer spoken, we hear you,” the sculptors write on their speaker’s cabinet.

The Historical Society is selling raffle tickets for chances to win the artworks on display, with proceeds split between the artists and the Historical Society.

The show is open through May 20, Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1219 First St., Napa.

Emerging artists at di Rosa

While “Retrospect” invites viewers to look into the past, the current exhibition at di Rosa’s Gatehouse Gallery offers a preview of where the arts are headed.

“MFA Selections” is the latest curatorial coup from Napan Ann Trinca, who for a second year has enjoyed the task of presenting work by artists who recently attained their master’s of fine art degrees from Bay Area art schools and colleges.

The 10 artists in the show were among dozens nominated by faculty from California College of the Arts, John F. Kennedy University, Mills College, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco State University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

The jury that selected the finalists included Bay Area artist Packard Jennings, whose work is represented in the di Rosa collection; gallerist Kimberly Johansson of Johansson Projects in Oakland; and Griff Williams, owner of Gallery 16 in San Francisco.

Much of the work by the show’s emerging artists reveals the effect on modern society of “information saturation,” Trinca writes in her curatorial statement.

“Myths and rituals from their personal pasts or a collective experience impel these artists to scrutinize reality with science, nostalgia, philosophy, and humor,” she continues.

The admission-free show includes photography, sculpture, video art and even painting, an old-fashioned technology in new-century hands. Nobody who’s serious about contemporary art should miss it: through June 12, Wednesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 5200 Sonoma Highway, Napa.

Painting, photography Upvalley

Last year’s plein air exhibition at the Napa Valley Museum was more than just a satisfyingly diverse regional art show.

It was also a competition, in which museum visitors cast ballots for their favorite painters.

With an oil titled “Light Play,” the top vote-getter, Alfredo Tofanelli of Petaluma, won his way to the solo show on display at the Museum through April 18.

Tofanelli’s luminous landscapes, seascapes, portraits and still lifes are vivid with color, light and dynamic forms that seem eager to leave their decorous frames and retake the third dimension.

Across the valley in Rutherford, Mumm Napa’s Fine Art Photography Gallery will give visitors a glimpse of the “City of Light” with an exhibition opening March 20. With more than 50 color prints on display, “Paris Icons” is the companion show to a fine-art book by the same name, which won three Independent Publisher Book Awards in 2009.

Author Leslie J. Little and photographer James Scholz will be signing first-edition copies at the opening reception Friday, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

The show runs through Sept. 26. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at 8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford.

Register correspondent Louisa Hufstader is the editor of “Native Grandeur: Preserving California’s Vanishing Landscapes,” a book of landscape paintings published by the Nature Conservatory of California.

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