July 8, 2016
The Narrative Figure
Art Ltd, July / August 2016
Jordan Eddy


The Narrative Figure
Art Ltd, July / August 2016
Jordan Eddy

In "The Narrative Figure," at David Richard Gallery (through July 4). four artists reanimate figurative art by examining personal identities that are as fragmented as the genre itself. Queens artist Esteban Cabeza de Baca is the exuberant star of the show, filling the gallery's front room with monumental canvases. His bright oil paintings approach absurdity, but are grounded in political commentary drawn from an examination of his Native American and Mexican heritage. Fragmented figures dressed in traditional Native American gar­ments wander through desolate landscapes, encountering walls and objects that shimmer in and out of existence. The paintings pos­sess some of the cartoon zing of the artist's New York contemporaries Dana Schutz and Jamian Juliano-Villani, with the accompanying jolt of a bloody past brought forward.

In a second room. portraits by New York artists Jeffrey Hargrave and Michael Dixon hang side­by-side. Hargrave gleefully co-opts the styles of neo-expressionists Philip Guston and Carroll Dunham, two white, heterosexual artists, to capture his perspective as an African-American gay man. Thick brushstrokes mark out black faces that stretch and oulge in works with acerbic titles such as Too Black for Words, and Loose Lips Sink Ships. Michael Dixon, who often explores his biracial identity through self portraiture, takes up the cause of the Black Lives Matter movement. He stares down the viewer with weary eyes in a series of oil paint­ings that quote Martin Luther King Jr. and reference Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow" in their titles. Raghead I shows the artist with teary eyes and a white cloth crowning his head. The work carries the emotional sincer­ity-if not the rich adornment-of portraits by Mickalene Thomas.

Daisy Quezada. the lone Santa Fe artist in the mix, uses a lace draping technique to coat arti­cles of clothing in a porcelain slip. A bra is pinned against the wall by a dusty shovel in Sostener o Refrenar, and another undergar­ment peeks out from beneath a railroad tie in Sujetando, Resistiendo. Quezada grew up be­tween two cultures, in the borderlands of the United States and Mexico. These skinny found objects suggest figures, while the discarded clothes chillingly mark their actual absence. It's not a step toward abstraction, so much as a way to capture a shadow of the female figure in the vein of Ana Mendieta's earthy silhou­ettes. Quezada's work is a reminder that throughout the exhibition, the figure is but a bridge to examining wider cultural contexts.

-- Jordan Eddy

Associated Artist

Associated Exhibitions

  • The Narrative Figure Featuring Esteban Cabeza de Baca, Michael Dixon, Jeffrey Hargrave, Daisy Quezada, and Justice Whitaker
    May 10, 2016 - July 4, 2016

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January 17, 2017
Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts
J. Willard Marriott Library
The University of Utah, 01/17/2017

The University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library will host the art exhibition Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts, Jan. 20-March 3.

Artnauts, an art collective formed 20 years ago by George Rivera, professor of art and art history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, consists of 300 global artists who serve as goodwill ambassadors, acknowledging and supporting victims of oppression worldwide. Their creativity has generated over 230 exhibitions across five continents. Five faculty members from the U’s Department of Art and Art History are members of the collective, Sandy Brunvand, Beth Krensky, V. Kim Martinez, Brian Snapp and Xi Zhang.

Globalocation derives from “Globalocational Art” — a concept used by the Artnauts to refer to their exhibitions in international venues. It is the mission of the Artnauts to take art to places of contention, and this anniversary exhibition is a sample of places where they have been and themes they have addressed.

“The Artnauts could not exist without the commitment of the artists in the collective to a common vision of the transformative power of art,” said Rivera. “The Artnauts make their contribution with art that hopefully generates a dialogue with an international community on subjects that are sometimes difficult to raise.”

Krensky, associate department chair of the Art and Art History Department, had the opportunity to travel with Rivera in Chile as part of an Artnauts project, working with mothers who were searching for their children who had mysteriously disappeared during a time of political unrest.

“When I travelled to Chile in 1998, George and I spent an afternoon with the Mothers of the Disappeared, and the meeting changed my life,” said Krensky. “It was from that moment on that I placed a picture of them on my desk to look at every day. I was so moved by what they each had lost — a son, a brother, a father — and yet what remained for them was a deep, deep well of love. They were fierce warriors and stood up to the government to demand the whereabouts and information of the people who had disappeared, but they lived within profound love.”

The 20th anniversary exhibition at the Marriott Library is a retrospective of the traveling works the Artnauts have toured around the globe. The exhibition will be located on level three of the library. The opening reception is open to the public and will be held on Friday, Jan 20, 4-6 p.m. Rivera will speak at 4 p.m.

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