Miscellanea and Ephemeron
06/20/2005 Archived Entry: "Gallery review: Avenue 50 Studio - Leo Limón and Robert Delgado"
Leo Limón and Robert Delgado at Avenue 50 Studio
The current art exhibit, Stages at the Avenue 50 Studio brings together two veteran artists, Robert Delgado and Leo Limón. Each artist has produced engaging and provocative work that challenge the viewer but in very different ways and with very different results.
The two paintings and seven chalk pastel drawings of Leo Limón in this show cover an intensely prolific period from 2004 to the present year. He uses iconography, humor and techniques that reflect both his interest in the Los Angeles environment and in images from Mexican mythology and history. Those that know Limon's past style will feel comfortably familiar with these narrative works. Colorful Los Angeles landscapes abound with cars, bicycles, Palm trees, shopping carts, tow trucks and canoes while blending seamlessly with an exciting flow of deities and cosmic symbols that compete for visual attention. In these works the artist stages dreamlike scenes that involve onlookers from the ancient past as well as ourselves. In "Downstream Uprising" the LA River, peopled with bicyclists and canoeists, plays an important part while above it loom the figures of troubadours, cacti and the cosmos. This is probably the most romantic piece in the gallery. In "Fruta de la Vida", again using the LA River as a subject base, Limon presents a darker and more dramatic moment. The viewer's focus is upon the leering face of a painted cat flanked by two immense spray cans both working to seemingly obliterate the image. Graffiti marks the surrounding walls while above the heavens sparkle with energetic images. With the non-stop activity of these and other drawings setting a frenetic visual pace, it requires the viewer to take time and absorb the individual images and marks.
Part of the satisfaction derived from these works is the deciphering of the mythic iconography used. To this reviewer the paintings do not compete favorably with the dynamic chalk drawings. The inherent quality and distinctive marks of the pastels have an exuberant and spontaneous quality about them while the paintings seem more methodically produced. Both the drawings and paintings take advantage of Limón's wise use of dark surfaces as his ground. The chalk marks and the paint strokes glow luminously against their backgrounds. These are joyous works.
Robert Delgado has chosen to show 6 large, (most near eight feet in height) complex acrylic paintings on fiberglass mesh that work beautifully in their space. The surfaces are made up of shapes each one painted with meticulously blended brushstrokes using a stencil technique and at first glance suggest an abstract collage-effect. As one stands before the work, images become apparent: a face, hands appear as the shapes begin to coalesce into recognizable forms. These are difficult works requiring the viewer to study them in order to find the three or more images that are imbedded in each. To help us solve these visual questions Delgado has provided us with an Artist Statement that includes a list of photographic images used. In the two most colorful paintings, "Lady with Egg Crate" and "Cheerleader 1", the artist presents beautifully glowing effects that ultimately become ironic and contradictory when the photographs used are recognized. These works as well as others can only lead to the revelation that social and political statements are the artist's focus. Certainly the attractive colors and surfaces giving way in cases to horrific disclosures reflect the artist's preoccupation with governmental news management contrasted with actual events. I don't want to disclose too much of the visual references since each person's personal discovery remains an important process for these paintings. As one proceeds around the gallery, one notes the change in tone and hue of Delgado's work. From the stridently bright red, orange and green hues of the first paintings the others become more subdued with grays, browns and beiges dominating as if to create a strange serenity that masks the realities hidden just below the surface. In "Warthog" we discover three figures along with an armored army vehicle and an ordnance feeder for a machine gun that also resembles the tracks laid down by heavy machinery and that in turn resemble human vertebrae. The interplay between these images becomes the message. These are serious paintings.
Both artists benefit from the tasteful arrangement and hanging by gallery owner and curator Kathy Gallegos. The exhibit is on display until Monday, July 4.
For more information on the show that runs until July 4, 2005, please visit Avenue 50 Studio or the interviews with Roberto Delgado and Leo Limón. On a personal note, if you're in the LA area, I urge you to see this show in person because these .jpgs do not do these works justice. ED.
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