There is so much art making going on in Los Angeles that sometimes it’s easy to forget that our neighbors just next door are also making some very good art. I recently attended two shows in Santa Barbara featuring the work by Argentine painter Zack Paul. His first solo-show Inside Out is now on exhibit at Sullivan Goss in downtown SB. Paul, who has been living in the US for ten years, has clearly been influenced by the Southern Californian sunshine. As you enter the gallery space, the first thing you will notice is the rich vocabulary of color, lines and space in his abstract paintings. His palette is inspired by the Pacific Ocean’s marine life; sand, ocean, kelp, rocks, moss, oxide, coral, stones, seaweed also appear in the paintings titles. Paul explained how he mixes these colors with man made architectural objects, creating an interesting dialogue and relationship. Within these hard-edged paintings, ideas are repeated, as are his colors, systems and forms.
Paul explained that he takes photographs of complicated architectural shapes and forms, redraws them and then brings out the natural element using his carefully selected colors. Then the magic begins: There is an illusion of depth as he plays with the ambiguity of three-dimensionality and then makes us begin to wonder if the constructions are sheltering or inhibiting. The paintings are double edged and inside out. In the series Commonplace Interior Shapes, Exterior Colors (No. 1-3) he has taken a photograph of the interior of his house and of a corner which he often looks at in his studio. In these paintings, routine and repetition are integrated and recontextualized within a modernist architecture framework; Natural colors of the coastline mix with man made shapes and built environments.
A work that caught my eye is Simple Folds, a 6×6 piece of tracing paper, which has been folded and cut after following a specific system. But there is a randomness included in this recipe and not even the artist knows what will be its outcome. A grid is created, but a new language is the byproduct. Paul explained that the grid contains many references for him, such as flags of the countries he has lived in (Argentina, Brazil and the US). Just like his identity, the grid is created randomly, mixed with his three cultural backgrounds.
In this show you will notice everything is done in threes. In the piece Tents, Paul draws the complex three-dimensional construction on a flat surface and then turns it into a three-dimensional sculpture. Triangulation is a very important factor in his work: three colors within a palette, three paintings within a mini-series, three series within the larger exhibition, three languages, three countries, three experiences. You can see the relation to Blinky Palermo’s triangles, who has influenced Paul’s work.
The parallel and perpendicular lines seem so bold and clean… but interestingly enough, the geometric lines are not machine made, but created with the wavering hand. Texture of paint and the movement of the brush strokes can be seen the closer you get to the paintings. Paul actually does us this favor by showing a video that takes you close up to where the lines meet. And once you start to notice the imperfections of the human touch, the painting in the video changes to the next detail. It is meditative and draws you deep within the realities of imperfection. It’s a great metaphor for life, where everything depends on perspective and scale.
After viewing the exhibition, I had a chance to visit Paul at The Can(n)on Art Studios in Goleta where he shares studio space with six other artists. It’s an incredible little corner in an industrial complex where art making is happening at its fullest. Paul currently has work featured in a group show, along with his studio mates, at the Atkinson Gallery at Santa Barbara City College until March 23rd. Now we just need to bring Paul’s work to LA!
Another abstract artist who is from Argentina (via Spain) is Esteban Lisa, whose paintings are on view at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) as part of the exhibition Playing with Lines and Colors. Lisa’s work, however, is quite different from other Latin American abstract artists, as his work shows more resemblance to the paintings of Kandinskly and Miró. However, just like in Paul’s work, the sunlight and the elements of the earth play an important role. Lisa’s painted symbols and lines become an intimate performance of music and movement, as they slide and sway to create ideas of expressionism and spirituality. This retrospective will be on view until May 27th.
In the gallery next to Lisa’s show is a large video installation 2iPM009 by Venezuelan contemporary artist Magdalena Fernández. When you enter the large, dark space the quiet sound of rain pitter patters as you look into the blackness of the screens. Then very tiny white dots randomly appear, which gradually grow to become short vertical and horizontal lines, reminding you of Mondrian’s Composition in Line, but with movement. The sprinkling of rain becomes faster, more abundant and loud. A cascade of elongated white lines which intersect as the sounds of the stormy weather rises to a crescendo with pouring rain and intense thunder. The screen is almost completely white as the connected lines engulf it and the room brightens as if lightening has struck. Ten minutes later, the storm is over and nature comes full circle; the video ends calmly with the same small dots it all began with. Yes, at that point I let go of my breath…
In the Project Room at MOLAA is the exhibition no idea by Uruguayan artist Marco Maggi. What comes to my mind when I think of this artist is paper, meticulously cut reams of white paper. But this time I was surprised to see 128,ooo sheets of bright yellow paper making the back corner gallery sunny and energetic. In a conversation between MOLAA assistant curator Selene Preciado and Maggi, he explains, “There is nothing more superficial and portable than a paper- a paper is only a surface. To draw is basically to dialogue with a sheet of paper.” Maggi works with this material because he’s able to delicately cut it, crease it, and cast shadows on its surface. He makes a piece of work that lies somewhere between a drawing and a sculpture. He continues explaining, “When looking at the lines cut by the pencil through gradient light, they look like rivers on the very surface- on the surface of water. Intellectuals are concerned with abysms; I prefer to surf on paper.”
Of course Maggi wants his viewers to interact with the work, but in order to really see the diminutive cuts and details, one must slow down, perhaps kneel on the floor and get close enough to look and focus. And it’s this moment of blurriness (getting too close to tiny cuts on piles of bright yellow paper will do this to you!) that makes the dialogue reach another level, possibly causing confusion. This was my favorite moment. What exactly are these structures…buildings, a city, a sculpture garden? Maggi leaves that to us, hence the title of this show no idea.
Back in January you might remember I wrote a post about Yautepec Gallery at Art Los Angeles Contemporary. It was at this fair that I was introduced to Ryan Perez‘s work. On the same day that Levitated Mass pulled up on Wilshire Blvd., Perez’s work also opened at the LACMA Art Rentals and Sales Gallery. To coincide with the coming of the megalith, Perez humorously titled his work The Arrival. Although his pieces look heavy, they do not weigh 340 tons and his artworks are not natural but rather produced by Perez’s own hand. Ten circular disks align the hallway of LACMA’s Sales Gallery. This site specific piece acts as a whole, yet Perez said he wouldn’t be bothered if they were separated and living in different environments. Perez successfully uses this difficult hallway to hang work that plays with the function and eventually the ambiance of the space; Movement is crucial and the choice to load or unload is up to the viewer and the direction that he or she is going. As I walked down the hallway, the chaotic lines gradually began to disappear as I moved to the final disk, which only has two lines calmly crossing each others paths. Another sensation that I felt is that the piece is very meditative as it starts full and noisy but descends to an empty and light space, offering a sense of peace. I wondered if these disks were planets or moons… I wasn’t sure by the end of it but I did know that they’d arrived.
Perez is an MFA candidate for the spring of 2012 at UC Riverside. This June Perez will have his first solo exhibition with Yautepec Gallery in Mexico City.
At the Fellows of Contemporary Art exhibition space in Chinatown, Kristen Calabrese and Joshua Aster have put on a unique show Finds! The Unusual Object as part of the Curator’s Lab series. In this exhibition, these curators strive to showcase the uncommon, the unpopular and the peculiar. Artists include Anna Simson and Chris Finley, Francesca Pastine, Holly Lane, Joyce Lightbody, Jeni Spota, Juan Martin del Campo Jr., Linda Stark, Marcia Binnendyk, and Mark Babcock.
One of my favorites in the show is the stained glass art works by native Angelino Juan Martin del Campo Jr.. Martin del Campo uses a material loaded with preconceived notions and then breaks those notions by interjecting humor, elements of design and erotic subjects. What comes to my mind when I think of stained glass are images of church windows, pizza parlor lamps, Prairie style homes and even my mother’s own kitschy doors. But rather than finding saints and narratives drawn from the Bible or symbolic motifs, in Martin del Campo’s work you will find penises, vaginas, handcuffs, butt huggers, humorous cliches… At FOCA you can see four of his works casting rainbows throughout the exhibition space.
Make sure to stop by FOCA on March 24th for an informal artists’ talk from 2-5pm.