‘In Between’ builds mystical world in Oakland gallery

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The products of tripped out imaginations bounce back and forth on the white walls of Oakland’s Old Crow Tattoo and Gallery. In a show colored by magic and spirituality, “In Between” is Nick Mann, Brett Flanigan, Craig Rodgers and Dan Bortz’s first collaboration in a gallery space.

Each occupying his own area of the wall, they have collectively transformed the space through dream-like expressions of untouched nature and extraterrestrial energy. There is no one artist that anchors the show, but instead, themes of spirituality, magic and the unconscious mind unify the works.

Dan Bortz renders freaky creatures and other-worldly landscapes using swirling paints and printed fabrics. Each work translates as a continuous flow of dreams. His lush fabrics are draped from the ceiling, intimating the sloping terrain of this faraway planet. Through the animated space he creates, Bortz urges the viewer to transcend the physicality of the paintings.

In a similar effort to transport those looking at his art, Nick Mann paints a massive pink and orange animal filled with flowers, vines and designs directly on the wall. Scraps of distressed wood whitewashed with the same decorative patterns cover its body, and a cotton-covered branch extends from its neck.

This bizarre composition serves as a frame for his central piece, a painting of a green female deity expelling a flowing white substance from her mouth. Drawing on a fascination with tribal spirituality, Mann surrounds her with enchanted thickets and a sweeping rainbow.

Next to Mann’s forested oasis, Rodgers works depict nature’s elements in organic media. He displays raw nature drawings and sculptures made of wood, bone, and other found materials in a minimalist design scheme. In one piece created on a wooden, skateboard-shaped panel, two men chill out strumming on guitars on a background of exotic landscapes. This lifestyle of self-actualization and finding harmony with nature is clearly important to all four artists. Like ingredients in a magician’s spell, Mann’s works mix to express how spirits, nature and humans come together.

Rodgers works flow seamlessly across the gallery into Flanagan’s, whose primary canvas is wood. Flanagan celebrates the material by painting to mimic the lines of the wood’s grain. The result is complex geometric graphics in vivid colors and patterns.

The shapes in his pieces echo onto the wall behind with red and green triangles he has painted right on the wall. Flanagan has also installed a ladder that ascends upwards to a painting. Barely visible from the ground, it could be a window into some parallel world, or even into the colorful exhibit itself.

Standing in the center of the gallery is like climbing through the window at the top of Flanagan’s ladder. The artists’ goal, it seems, is to spur such a transportation. Absorbing the mysticism infused in each piece, the viewer can move into these strange, faraway realms.

Anna Carey is the lead visual art critic.