Walter Maciel Gallery presents Illusions of a Perfect Utopia: Contemporary Landscape featuring works by both gallery and invited artists who explore the subject of landscape as a literal, abstract or fantastical space embodying notions of beauty, imagination, memory, turmoil and natural disaster. The show includes work by Kelly Berg, Rebeca Bollinger, Ismael de Anda III, Colin Doherty, Amir H. Fallah, Cynthia Ona Innis, John Jurayj, Dean Monogenis, Pepa Prieto, Ramon Ramirez and Lisa Solomon.
John Jurayj will exhibit the painting Untitled (December 15, 1981, #1) which displays historic imagery of architectural remnants affected by the civil war in Lebanon. Rendered in a graphic style and powerful palette, an explosive array of a crumbling building embodies the majority of the pictorial field with an unscathed tower seen in the background. Jurayj’s father was born and raised in Beirut and although he left before the civil war began, many of his relatives stayed behind to deal with the aftermath. In contrast, Kelly Berg depicts scenes of natural disasters such as wild fires, volcanoes and tornados using illustrative patterning and iridescent colors framed within thick impasto pigments. The work examines human vulnerability of living within the different phenomena’s of nature and often based on personal experience. The painting entitled El Diablo de Los Angeles displays a large grass fire burning across a vast array of hills with mountain peaks in the background. The scene was literally captured by the artists from her apartment window in Los Angeles. Lisa Solomon addresses the notions of natural destruction from a similar perspective resulting from human error. Included in the show is a series of crocheted trees grouped together as a pedestal-top installation interpreting the NASA satellite photos of the deforestation of Tierras Bajas in Bolivia. The work is a political statement on human consumption and the destruction of the once abundant rain forest and its habitat. Solomon explores subjects of disasters, harmful chemicals and biohazards by transforming them into beautiful handmade sculptures and drawings that incorporate her use of different stitchery.
Ismael de Anda III works within the context of memory to explore his experience of growing up in a border city within his Mexican American heritage. The large interactive sculpture Lazaro is a recreation of a glider-swing that was originally built by his grandfather on his farm in Southwestern Texas. It was built purely from memory and relates to the transient existence and recollection of his grandfather’s property on the banks of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo rivers. The context of memory is further explored in the work of Cynthia Ona Innis and her relationship to urban and rural terrains. Using collaged materials such as fabric and acrylic mediums, Innis creates abstract shapes and textured surfaces that hint at notions of landscape with distinct horizon lines and vague interpretations of nature. The work examines memory and experience played out in a traditional studio practice of conceptual painting which she first began while living in the rural woods during a winter residence at MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire.
Rebeca Bollinger’s work takes cues from her everyday environment testing technology and traditional presentation. Bollinger is a digital and mixed media artist whose work encompasses video, photography, sculpture and drawing. Included in the exhibition is a photo entitled Hollywood Boulevard from a past series shot with a large telephoto lens from the 1960s and manipulated in hand with no computer enhancements to blur out the image. The photo captures a mundane street sign depicting its famous namesake with circular patterns existing randomly over the surface as a result of the reflection of the mirrors within the enlarged lens. By comparison, Ramon Ramirez uses his natural surroundings and community of Los Angeles as the subject of his oil paintings depicting iconic symbols and perspectives. Trained in architecture, Ramirez explores concepts of urban development as ingredients for the interpretation of urban landscape. The subjects range from typical elongated palms to the modern skyline that makes up downtown Los Angeles set within fiery sunsets. The imagery intentionally captures a state of flux based on the artist’s daily experience as a metaphor for the impending changes of his community. Similarly, Colin Doherty depicts his locale but set within the surrounding areas of Lexington, Kentucky as subject for his work. The painting Big Daddy’s Lawn displays a cropped section of a mid century home complete with a well manicured hedge. An abundance of shrubbery and a smaller cottage can be seen in the background entailing the country-like environment of the property. The work captures the serene landscape and architectural charm with an overbearing mystery of the family that resides there.
The final three artists use imagination as a conceptual realm to investigate natural beauty and surreal topographies. Amir H. Fallah’s work addresses a nexus of idiosyncratic topics, culling influences from personal narrative, art history and imagined experiences alike. The circular painting included in the show is based on Dutch and Flemish Golden Age paintings. Fallah scanned reproductions of a chosen painting to cut out specific flowers and use them as collaged information within the surface thus making it a challenge to discern them from the painted imagery. Pepa Prieto’s paintings are fragments from her life history interpreted in a similar context to her childhood experience of attending and acclimating to an English boarding school from her native country Spain. Much like writing in a diary, the paintings exist as a visual narrative that detail a snapshot of Prieto’s inner dialogue with the ending of one piece leading to the beginning of another. Her paintings detail parts of her physical existence as well as her memory embodied in the physical presence of the loosely rendered landscapes and emotional constructions. In comparison, Dean Monogenis paints environments merging urban, architectural constructions with natural elements. He combines details of unfinished buildings, colored scaffoldings and architectural structures within landscapes made of rocky cliffs, lush vegetation and looming skies to expose the constant state of change and transition. An over- whelming sense of the challenges between nature and human perseverance is revealed within the perpetually in-progress urban landscape.