Geoff Fricker Sr.'s “Creating Rock Gravel by Hand,” a silver gelatin print, is among the photographs to be exhibited July 27-Sept. 6 at the Davis Art Center, 1919 F St. Courtesy photo

Geoff Fricker Sr.'s “Creating Rock Gravel by Hand,” a silver gelatin print, is among the photographs to be exhibited July 27-Sept. 6 at the Davis Art Center, 1919 F St. Courtesy photo


Fricker exhibit showcases narrative landscape photos

By July 25, 2011

 See it yourself

What: “Father & Son: Culture in the Landscape,” photography by Geoff Fricker Sr. and Geoff Fricker Jr.

When: July 27-Sept. 6; a Second Friday ArtAbout reception runs from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12

Where: Tsao Gallery, Davis Art Center, 1919 F St.

Gallery hours: 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays

Info: (530) 756-4100, davisartcenter.org

Father and son Geoff Fricker Sr. and Geoff Fricker Jr. share both a name and a clear photographic vision. Their textured black-and-white images focus on the varying physical and cultural landscapes of Northern California and India, creating a fascinating narrative about humans’ relationships with and reliance on land and water.

“Father & Son: Culture in the Landscape,” will feature both large-scale and small-scale photos, the majority taken with 35 mm cameras. The exhibit will be on display beginning Wednesday and continuing through Sept. 6 at the Davis Art Center’s Tsao Gallery, 1919 F St. A Second Friday ArtAbout reception will run from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12.

Fricker Sr.’s pieces were taken in the 1960s during a two-month sabbatical in Vellore, South India, where he worked at the Christian Medical College & Hospital. A radiologist by profession, Fricker Sr. picked up the camera with a natural artist’s eye. Later, he became a judge for California State Fair photo exhibits alongside Brett Weston, and was active with the Sierra Camera Club.

The photographs of locals in Vellore depict a human relationship to the land and water that have existed for centuries. Here, villagers plow the rice fields with water buffalo, fetch water from the well, break down rock into gravel, dry cow dung on village home walls for cooking fuel and make rope by hand.

The images depict the grace, simplicity and authenticity of daily lives lived on the land. In 1971, these photos were featured in a solo exhibit of Fricker Sr.’s photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Fricker Jr.’s work — photos primarily of the upper Sacramento watershed — chronicles a transformation of a similar relationship that existed with Native Americans to a modern, more technologically complex connection to water and the land.

“I try to pull the viewer in as an archaeologist where the images unravel histories and lead to stories about a place,” Fricker said. “Most of my photos are about water as a cultural reflection; they reflect a tradition of using water as a resource, sanctuary and playground.”

In this exhibit, viewers will find images depicting the restoration of the natural meandering of the Sacramento River to its historical flood plain, dams and pumps to divert water for farming, and the implementation of friendlier fish ladders and screens for more efficient passage to spawning grounds and safe return of small fry to the ocean.

Fricker lives in Chico, where he is retired after teaching and chairing the photography program at Butte College for 35 years. Throughout his teaching career, he has exhibited prints reflecting his interest in the cultural context of water.

Fricker has received a National Endowment of the Arts grant for his watershed work in Northern California. He has worked with Department of Water Resources, Nature Conservancy, River Partners and Sacramento River Preservation Trust, among other environmental groups.

His photos are in the permanent collections of the Oakland Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Library of Congress.

“Father & Son: Culture in the Landscape” marks the first joint exhibit the Frickers have shared since 1971, when they displayed their work at Significant Directions, a small Davis gallery run by Warren Westgate.

“These images can be enjoyed on many levels,” said Fricker Jr. “But hopefully, this juxtaposition extends beyond the tradition of art for art’s sake, so that the work can also act as a tool — like a plow or hammer — highlighting the need for sustainable models of water and land use.”

For more information, call the Davis Art Center at (530) 756-4100 or visit www.davisartcenter.org.

Also on display at the Davis Art Center through Sept. 6 is “Mixing Media,” a group exhibit featuring prints, paintings and mixed media by 20 students from the Davis Art Center Art Makers Workshop, taught by Sara Post. A reception for “Mixing Media,” will take place just before the “Father & Son” reception on Aug. 12, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Melanie Glover

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