Jim Hodges' work has hung at Tilth since the restaurant opened in 2005, and Frank Huster's photographs have always lined the walls of Golden Beetle, but Maria Hines was never on the receiving end of so much art criticism until she selected Eric Kolbe's colorful paintings to decorate Agrodolce.
"No one ever comments about the art at Tilth," Hines says. "It's something that no one ever mentions. At Golden Beetle, we have people saying they love the photographs. But at Agrodolce, it's so crazy, because so many people are commenting."
Hines estimates 85 percent of the art-related feedback on comment cards is positive, "but with that, we also get 'who in the hell did this? I don't like that at all."
The splotched abstracts hanging in Agrodolce's main dining room were created by Hines' best friend, Eric Kolbe. He's not a professional artist, but started painting about 10 years ago; His work already hangs in Hines' house and the office at Tilth. When Hines asked Kolbe for art "that really feels like Fremont," he invited her to his studio to size up his various styles and select tubes of paint.
"I wanted it to be bright and colorful because that would be the energy given to the room, because it's a very earth-toned room," Hones says. "I liked the style because, to me, it looks like a bunch of flowers."
The Weekly's art editor, Brian Miller, working from the photo above, described the paintings as "large and largely monochromatic abstract canvases, almost a study in primary colors--red, yellow, blue, green--that suggests a shaken Mondrian with the grid removed, the colors oozing across their old boundaries."
Detractors complain the paintings are somehow noticeably generic. "I just remember it being really bad, but now I can't remember what it looked like," said one of my review companions who, as I recall, cracked a joke about the art before she'd even cracked her menu. "It was forgettable." An online caption accompanying a recent Stranger review called the paintings "very inoffensive."
But Hines says the painting's fans are as passionate as the critics. She's already sent at least one potential buyer to Kolbe.
"I told (Eric), 'you've got to put little tags next to the paintings'," Hines says, adding that they cost $450 apiece. "I'm like 'buy it now, because now's the time.'"