Tales of Oceana
On February 23rd, Craig Krull Gallery will present its first solo exhibition of the work of John Valadez. A native of Boyle Heights, Valadez started his artistic career in the 70s working collaboratively with other Chicano artists on mural projects for the United Farmworkers, for the production of Zoot Suit, and for the City murals program. At this time he founded, along with Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero and Richard Duardo, the Public Arts Center in Highland Park to provide studio space for these projects. While many of his comrade’s works reflected qualities of the Mexican muralists, Valadez developed a more realist approach and chose as his subjects; storefronts on Broadway, people on the streets, and random violence. His recent pastels in this exhibition take a mythical turn by depicting Latinos, on the beach and in the ocean, encountering phantasmal creatures such as toothy whales and enormous sea serpents. Valadez admits that he has always drawn and painted the ocean. His passion was partially born of boyhood memories of bodysurfing, tales of Captain Cook and Moby Dick, and the great unknown that ocean depths still represent.
Concurrently, the gallery will present recent paintings by Connie Jenkins. Four years ago she was invited to participate in an exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of the Channel Islands National Park and was granted access to normally restricted areas. Like Valadez, Jenkins has always been drawn to the ocean and themes of water. She states, “For over thirty years now, water has served as the landscape for my paintings. It is an element fundamental to life. It’s a symbol of season and cycle. Like a painting, it presents both surface and space.” The paintings of Channel Islands tide pools in this exhibition, while seemingly “photo-realist” are, in the artist’s estimation, less about replication and more about keen observation and simply “paying attention.”
Finally, the gallery will also present an exhibition of toned gelatin silver prints by Camille Solyagua entitled, Jellyfish and Red Crowned Cranes. As Karen Sinsheimer, curator of photographs at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art has observed, Solyagua’s sensitive observation of nature harkens “back to another age, when flowers were pressed between pages of a book and butterfly specimens were carefully mounted and preserved.” Her series of jellyfish, photographed through the glass of a tank, retain this very personal, poetic and reverent observation. Photographer, Ruth Bernhard wrote that Solyagua “observes with care, curiosity and feeling…inviting us to share in the experience of viewing the wonderful secrets she has discovered.” The exhibition also includes a series on the endangered Red Crowned Cranes photographed on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. Often featured in myths and legends, this crane is a symbol of good fortune, longevity and due to their fidelity, their image is popularly used in wedding ceremonies.