By Michael Eilers
Arizona Daily Wildcat September 5, 1996
The visual arts are often perceived as a solo occupation, without the group effort and collaboration of music or dance. Painting and photography are lonely arts, leaving the artist and his/her work together for many hours at a stretch, wilfully shutting o ut the world. Dancers have their troupe, trumpeters have the conductor, but painters only have a canvas and the brush - or so common perception seems to say.
Warriors and Dreamers, the latest show at the UA's Joseph Gross Gallery, runs counter to the "solo" nature of visual arts by combining the efforts of four unique artists into one collaborative show. Two painters, a photographer and a poet have contributed their talents to this mixed-media exhibit. The result is by design a mixed bag, but an interesting one to say the least.
It is one of the ironies of this show that the strongest work is also the most collaborative - the pieces where the individual artists vanish and blur together. Though each artist has solo pieces in the show, the collaborative pieces are the most striking and successful.
Painter Suzanne Klotz uses rough fields of color and actual stitching on her unframed canvases. A thoroughly Southwestern palette (turquoise, rust, copper) and lots of geometric shapes give her paintings a stained-glass appearance.
Loose, sinuous forms and psychological themes are common in her solo pieces, with rough-edged fabric clippings and colored stitching giving each piece a tactile dimension.
In contrast, Gonzalo Espinosa's paintings have a harsher, rougher edge, with twisted human forms and metallic oils. Most of his paintings contain enigmatic portraits of masked Mexican wrestlers, their jewel-studded masks and featureless faces appearing in many different contexts. Less organic than Klotz and with a fiery palette, his pieces tend toward the surreal and grotesque.
When the two combine, the chemistry is remarkable - Klotz seems to take the edge off Espinosa's grotesque forms, while his metallic paints and delicate shading add depth and passion to Klotz' geometric patterns. Both seem to have centered on the Southwest for their subject matter, with hints of the Baroque architecture and cultural emblems of Arizona and Mexico in their work.
The two combined their efforts to create Sacrifice, a stunning piece nearly eight feet wide and packed with detail. Although the hallmarks of each artist are apparent (Klotz' stitching and geometric shapes, Espinosa's wrestlers) the overall composition is seamless. Ranging from glowing metallic reds and browns to the cool green of the jungle, this piece combines cultural totems of the Southwest (crosses, a clown dancer, jackrabbits, a Mayan shield) into a landscape of artifacts. This synthesis across many different traditions and belief systems reveals the strength of collaborative pieces, and the potential for work of great depth.
Each painting is accompanied by Bridget Carroll's poetry, appearing in both English and Spanish. The poems are loosely related to the paintings with varying degrees of success. All three artists collaborated on El Diablo, a fiery red canvas with stitched words and one of Espinosa's enigmatic wrestlers.
Fred Gonzales contributed photos of the painters at work, along with portraits of the artists. While not strictly collaborative, his crisp black-and-white photos serve as evidence of the collaboration and camaraderie of the artists.
It is curious that the impulse of the observer is to try to pick out which artist did what - was that his brush stroke? Are those her colors? - when the object is collaboration, not individual contribution. In breaking the "solo" model of painting, Espino sa and Klotz have proved that artists can combine their talents and push themselves to a new level. Further illuminated by Carroll and Gonzales, the show adds a much-needed dash of color to the gallery's white walls.
Klotz and Espinosa will give a talk about the collaborative process tonight at 7 in the Architecture Auditorium.Tomorrow there will be a reception for the artists in the Joseph Gross Gallery from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The Joseph Gross Gallery is across from the UA Art Museum, open 10-5 weekdays and 12-5 Sunday. Call 626-4215 for information. Warriors and Dreamers will show until September 27.