The Empire Strikes Back

The Sacramento art scene -- yes, there is one -- heads to S.F.

Sacramento is a mystery to us. The inland empire seems like nothing but a broad, flat piece of land, supposedly the new home of Arnold Schwarzenegger (though we've heard he has to stay in a hotel when he's not in his Hummer), a haven of cheap housing (but not as cheap as you'd think). It's famous for its malls, and we suspect the city has good skateboarding, but other than that -- average summertime temperatures in the 90s? Hmm.

Now's your chance, however, to learn something important about the Sacramento art scene, courtesy of the Ultramega Art Conglomerate. First, there is one. Second, said scene is coming, en masse, to San Francisco -- or at least the members of Ultramega are coming, and they're a big part of it. The collective consists of artists, graphic designers, musicians, skaters, and graffiti kids from the capital city, some of whom had the brilliant idea of working together to command the attention of the outside world. The troupe is now taking its show on the road, and though currently that road is just I-80, in August it travels I-5 to take over the Voice 1156 Gallery in San Diego.

The inspiration for Ultramega is what you'd expect out of a place with a bit of a chip on its cultural shoulder: "We were tired of Sacramento's long-time shabby reputation," group organizer Aaron Winters said in a recent e-mail, "fed by crummy photocopied record covers; lame, do-nothing art events; a lousy club scene; and a notorious reputation with alcohol." After Winters joined forces with Jay Howell, an illustrator for skateboard companies and record labels, and the one-named Skinner, an artist known outside city limits for his melting monster visions, the trio recruited other members and set about promoting one another's work. "One of the major tenets of the group is to help each other succeed," Winters said. "For example, instead of 10 Web sites requiring 10 different promotional efforts, why not have one that we can all contribute to?" That site, www.theultramega.com, received more than 125,000 hits in its first month alone.

Nathan Cordero's installation at Sacramento's Kondos 
Gallery.
Nathan Cordero's installation at Sacramento's Kondos Gallery.

The 24-day show here in San Francisco has the air of a carnival tumbling into town -- a wild array of styles and personalities under one big top. Many of the works are being created in mediums other than paint: Blamo!, Sacramento's premier poster bomber, is constructing a stoneboard pagoda with a "reclaimed" newspaper vending machine; Nathan Cordero chips away the negative space from whitewashed wood panels, revealing figures and objects; and Jay Howell, whose crude cartoons in his recent book Negatron equally frustrate and delight readers, is building a fort. Opening night festivities include DJ Shaun Slaughter and music from Hearts & Horses, both on loan from the inland empire.

 
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