“Into the Sea” by Oscar Sanabria, currently at Fremont Gallery in South Pasadena (9/4/10 – 11/6/10), is reminiscent of James Abbott Mcneill Whistler’s journey to Valparaiso, Chile, in 1866 when the American-born British based artist inspired by the Chilean port city, painted haunting night scenes of the harbor in a blue and green palette. Sanabria’s figurative abstracts echo the haunting emotions inspired by the sea, the birth of life, and infinity. Sanabria softly flicks his paintings with colors and sand to suggest the very themes Whistler depicted in those nocturne paintings: ships, lights, and shorelines. Nevertheless, soon after the initial assessment, Sanabria’s unique style and technique unfolds as its own, juxtaposing the old and the new, the grayish-brown colors with the warm flesh-mustard colors, and the eternal duality of life as in the male/female; all skillfully represented in Sanabria’s acrylic and white charcoal on canvas Equilibrium (fig. 1).
El Mar adentro (fig. 2), Sanabria’s mixed media on wood panel alludes to life and the eternal, and perhaps infinite, connection of man to water. The alluring artwork, in which a canvas is covered with thin coats of cement, invites the viewer to reflect on her own life and connection with nature. Sanabria’s colors increase in depth and intensity from the grayish/brown concrete tones to a beautiful blending of intense reddish mustard colors bringing a figure to the forefront, as if waiting for Sanabria’s magical brush to give it a full breath of life.
Sanabria, very much like Whistler, sees nature as an artistic resource and his paintings seem to resonate with the sounds of the ocean in the exact manner Whistler's seemed to evoke music. Sanabria invites us "Into the sea" on a journey of discovery and memory and leaves us with a haunting nostalgia and a glimpse of what lies before us.