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ArtSlant Prize 2012: Steven Vasquez Lopez - California Reflections
by Kara Q. Smith

Steven Vasquez Lopez - 2nd Place, ArtSlant Prize 2012

Executed with laborious precision, it takes Steven Vasquez Lopez months to complete a painting. Replete with mesmerizing, detailed juxtapositions of line and color, layers of pattern and texture in his work reveal figureless landscapes, perhaps a view from poolside in Palm Beach where he spends a good portion of the year or the interior of his living room in the Bay Area. The tension between banal and chimerical in Lopez’s work reflects his history and influence migrating between cities on the Gold Coast. Originally from Southern California and now residing in San Francisco, Lopez has spent his whole life in California. As a first generation Mexican-American artist, his work uniquely creates his own language of cultural identity, in response to, and perhaps in conversation with, the motifs of mural arts and tattoo culture (rich with their own histories) of many of his contemporaries. Lopez’s work creates a new kind of iconography, symbolically operating on the micro level of the personal, able to be inserted into a larger historical and cultural dialogue.

Steven Vasquez Lopez, Flat on Top, Installation, 2012, Acrylic on Panel, 40" x 45"; © Steven Vasquez Lopez.

Portraying a domestic still life, in Our Place, Our Space (2012) recognizable objects emerge from the vibrant tableau, such as a couch and pillows. Camouflaged by Lopez’s meticulous yet haptic arrangement of colors, experiencing this space becomes a contrast between the comfort of domesticity on a surface level and what is under the veneer: a revealing and telling object-by-object exposé of Lopez and his life. Viewing this space reveals something about the way one’s relationship to every object in one's living room, on a theoretical level, is intrinsically tied to one’s identity. Lopez himself resides in the liminal space between what exists and how he paints it. Each painting a carefully intentional presentation of self through reinterpreted landscape.

Steven Vasquez Lopez, Sweet Escape, 2012, Acrylic and resin on panel, 42" x 48" ; © Steven Vasquez Lopez.

Recently venturing into drawing, Lopez’s Some Strings Attached series (2012) imparts just as much of the labor-intensive process of his paintings with less of the veneer. The colored patterns found in these works contain no recognizable imagery. Sheets of patterns were completed during times Lopez found himself traveling outside of California. Sometimes completed while in transit on a plane or in an unfamiliar place, there are places of imperfection disrupting the straight and perfect lines typically found in his paintings. Weaving together lines on paper, an homage to his seamstress mother, the unraveled imperfections become intrinsic to the overall design and thus executed with some amount of intention. The process is the concept of these drawings, strings attaching to the metaphorical fabric of Lopez’s California life while he is away from home. It is the moment when Lopez is not on his home turf and a bit of turbulence turns a straight line into a squiggle that viewers get the chance to see a different perspective and a small not-too-revealing moment of vulnerability in the pattern of Lopez’s artistic life.


Steven Vasquez Lopez was born in Upland, California and currently lives in San Francisco. His current work infuses meticulous and intricate patterns into landscapes of the great state of California, and most recently within the interior space of his San Francisco apartment. The son of a seamstress and mechanic, Lopez's early obsession with architecture, manual labor and bold fashion continues through his hard-edge graphic acrylic painting. Lopez received his BA in Studio Art from UC Santa Barbara in 2000. He was a recipient of the William Dole Memorial Scholarship (1999, 2000), Abrams Prize (2000) & Murphy and Cadogan Fellowship (2006). Since completing his MFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2007, Lopez has exhibited at the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, Riverside Art Museum, Diego Rivera Gallery, Parklife Gallery, Roll Up Gallery & Root Division Gallery.


Kara Q. Smith


(Image on top: Steven Vasquez Lopez, What a Life! Installation, 2012, Acrylic and resin on panel, 50 x 64" ; © Steven Vasquez Lopez.)

Posted by Kara Q. Smith on 12/6/12

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