SALOMON HUERTA STILL LIFES
January 6 - February 10, 2018
Opening reception January 13th 6-8pm
Huerta’s painting style is in the tradition of Pop realism, where the textures of the visible are smoothed out and the contours sharpened with a somewhat flattening, graphic effect. These simplified surfaces with clear but creamy edges are often rendered with paint that thickens and swirls unexpectedly in a background passage of the picture. Huerta’s facture has a dimensionality that exceeds the modest illusionism of his depictions. The artist has described how a dense opacity of paint can create an internal glow and this is evident in the still life works in particular. These paintings suggest Giorgio Morandi with the light of Southern California rather than Northern Italy.
Huerta’s body of work includes many portraits without faces – masked luchadores, figures with heads turned away or cropped out. His still life paintings are faceless portraits in their own way as well, both self-portraits and evocations of the artist’s father. In place of the father’s likeness are memory- objects – startling, mundane, and elegiac. The repetition between paintings suggests memory itself, reiterations of something experienced that changes in the retelling. Each time, on a corner of table that shades from cool gray to rosy cream, two or three items sit, one of which is always a wood-handled pistol. The gun rotates across the various paintings, turning each time on the table, but always at rest, casting different densities of shadow. The other item is food or drink – milk, water, an apple, a nopale cactus pad. The gun is Huerta’s father’s and the artist would bring the refrigerios to him and place them on the bedside table, alongside the weapon. The still life objects are an austere ofrenda. The father is to be served and appeased in exchange for his powers to provide and guard. The pistol surprises the viewer, but does not seem to signify threat. It is intimate rather than aggressive. This is an oblique and biographical reference to living in Boyle Heights and to the protection of family in an environment of violence.
Luchadores are theatrically brave, an entertaining performance of male conflict. The masks of the fighters resemble the ski masks of criminals, but festively colorful. As with the recumbent pistol, these strange covered faces read as masculine power without danger. Presenting Chicano pop culture and daily life with sensitive conversance, Huerta’s look at the familiar – both personal and cultural – is a challenge to our moment of oppressive stereotypes and objectification, of grotesque fantasies of separation and difference such as “beautiful” border walls. Huerta’s work is framed by our nation’s grim and painful backlash against brown skin and polyglot communities, against affinities and attractions, shared ideas and desires across traditions. Salomon Huerta’s work stands on its own as rich and allusive reflection on identity, but it stands out right now as a reserve of humane nuance in a time of vicious regression.
Anthony James "Fabulism," Fort Gansevort May 18th-July 8th
5 Ninth Avenue NYC 10014