By Michael Eilers
Arizona Daily Wildcat
For many artists, their first formal gallery show is a thrilling event; doubly so when the artist is a student, and is receiving a rare and unexpected level of exposure. The young artists, whose art is being exhibited at the Jose Galvez Gallery and who are mainly UA students and graduates, combine the fresh energy of new talent with an extremely mature level of polish.
"Seis Ra°ces Nuevas" brings together six Latino artists from the Tucson community in a show intended to demonstrate the new voices of Latino art.
With the double qualifier of being both "student" and "Latino" work, one might expect a fairly uniform show, complete with "Southwestern" motifs such as milagros and howling coyotes. Nothing could be further from reality. Working from both personal and cultural sources, each artist presents a radically different body of work, unique in ideology as well as technique and medium. From pop-art constructions to lush oils and acrylics, these artists echo the diversity of interests and skills that can be found among their professors at the UA.
"I chose the Jesus figure because he was the most trite, the cheesiest part of the mass-produced folk art," Claudio Dicochea said of his painting "Artesania." Rich with somber shades of red, brown, and gray, this piece is the first you confront when entering the gallery. Subtly laced with a dark humor, the painting, done in oils on an unstretched canvas, depicts a Jesus figure, complete with a crown of thorns, wearing a sombrero in place of his halo.
Other cultural icons litter the canvas, including the word "artesania," which translates as "artisan" or "craftsman." Few elements of clichÇ border art are spared his critical eye, yet there is also much reverence for the talismans of the borderland culture icons of Catholicism, Aztec symbols, Spanish language that informed his past. The finishing touch of "Artesania" is a sardonic "trademark" symbol in the center of the canvas, exposing the mass-produced quality of so-called "Southwestern" work while pointing toward the ancient symbols that are its origin.
Xochtil Gill has only been painting for a year, but her large piece "Dream of Prophecy" belies that fact. Combining vibrant colors and a thick, visceral texture, the painting depicts a series of dreams compressed into a single image. Borrowing from surrealist and impressionistic imagery, yet wholly her own, Gill's paintings point towards a very bright future indeed.
Using the constructive elements of Pop Art and a sharp wit, David Perez proved to be as formidable a talker as he is an artist. "I wanted to do something very different, create four paintings that could have been done by four different artists." True to his word, the pieces are similar in their sparseness and range of colors, but radically different in images and technique. While not a student at present, Perez shares the energy and ambition of his fellow exhibitors.
Student work is often derivative, imitating the great masters; Adriana Gallego takes this typical situation and turns it on its head with her painting "Puberty at 20." Echoing the Edvard Munch painting of the same name, this work is far from a copy, presenting an extremely personal perspective which proclaims the painting as her own. Lush, textured oils and somber colors are used in a series of self-portraits and investigations into abstract concepts of "body" and "self."
Using acrylics and an earthtone palette, John Enriquez' "Three Deep" depicts three blindfolded men, standing with proud, stiff necks seeming to be heroes before a firing squad. Combining the political and the aesthetic, his works are marked by attention to detail and a careful use of color to depict emotion as well as atmosphere.
Decorating the front window, Fernanda Jerez' small sculptural works are challenging, dense piles of artifacts; simple objects such as paper bags and cardboard boxes that are re-defined and investigated by the artist. Working in clay, paper, paint and ink, Jerez abandoned the traditional media boundaries (painter, sculptor, printmaker) to create objects that invite the viewer to touch and continue the investigation.
Liane Hernandez, the organizer of the exhibit, said that the choice of both the artists and their work was an organic process. "One of the main objectives was to get the artists to talk to each other, to bounce things off each other." And in challenging labeling of the exhibit as a "Chicano exhibit", Hernandez asks "Are they Chicano artists, or artists that happen to be Chicano? This show proves that the preconceived notion of Chicano art, the 'Chicano aesthetic,' is false and inaccurate."
The gallery itself, owned by local photographer Jose Galvez, is a cozy little space wedged between the Epic Cafe and a clothing store. Galvez said that the young artist show may become a tradition at the gallery, showcasing the fresh energy of developing talent and the diversity of vision among Chicano youth.
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