Monday, November 2, 2015

Benicia's Gallery 621 holds first national juried exhibition

(Originally published in the 11/1/15 edition)

   Gallery 621 is currently hosting its first ever juried show, and the only big thing about it is the scope it covers. 
   “Microcosmos,” the gallery’s new juried exhibition, features a wide range of work from artists across the United States. Despite attracting artists from such a wide-reaching area, the works of art themselves are small. 
   According to artist Nikki-Basch-Davis, that’s the point.
   “Large work sometimes speaks volumes,” she said. “Small work can be ignored or dismissed or just not look important enough next to a large canvas. Here, we’re showcasing everything small so the viewer has a chance to really study the small work and discover how much strength small two or three-dimensional works can have.”
  Basch-Davis said Gallery 621 had been meaning to do a juried show for a while, but the move from the original 621 First Street location meant the gallery members still had to settle in. The idea to focus on just smaller works was based around fitting hundreds of items in a small gallery.
   “We felt we could accommodate more work if we limited them to 12 x 12,” she said. 
   The exhibition will feature not only paintings but also smaller sculptures and more abstract works. One three-dimensional piece features over 50 plastic toy horses packed into a replica of a pasture.
   After searching for a prospective juror, the gallery was able to settle on Sonoma-based artist Chester Arnold. Arnold’s work is revered across the Bay Area and has even been featured in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. 
   The gallery put out a call for artists across the country through a site called, according to artist member Linda Stevenson Dunlop.
   “We had to narrow it down from close to 400 works to 133,” Basch-Davis said. 
   After being selected, the artists were notified of their inclusion in the show. Many sent their work in through the mail, but others came by the gallery to drop them off.
   “Some people brought their physical work in,” Dunlop said. “Rather than send them in through the mail, they actually dropped them off here from as far away as L.A.”
   All in all, 133 works of art by artists from 30 different states are on display. Prizes will be given for the first, second and third place entries as well as honorable mentions. The winners will be announced at the reception on Nov. 14. 
   Basch-Davis says she hopes the exhibit will give viewers appreciation for a different kind of art.
   “It’s easy to make an impact on a 4 X 4,” she said. “it makes you curious about who’s behind it.”
   She was also impressed by the amount of effort that went into each small piece.
   “These are not digital,” she said. “Every mark is done by hand.”
   The two artists agreed that the exhibit would bring something unique to the gallery’s visitors.
   “It’s different from what we show throughout the year,” Basch-Davis said. “It’s an appreciation to a different scale of art.”

   “Microcosmos” will run through Sunday, Nov. 29 at Gallery 621, located on 309 First St. The gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. A reception will be held from 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 14. Additionally, there will be an artist talk from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 19, which will be facilitated by Arts Benicia Director Celeste Smeland and will feature presentations by five local artists. The paintings at “Microcosmos” will be available to purchase. For more information, visit 

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