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Recovered Art Reviews

Here are some reviews and one article I wrote (1996-2000) for a magazine called art issues (1989-2001) after graduate school.

They were all stored in my office at Scripps College in box for safekeeping, but there was a leak during the pandemic and a fire sprinkler slowly turned many of them into a moldly mess. I recovered what I could and scanned them. Its not much but kind of fun to see. I hope you enjoy.

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From Art/Text magazine, 2000:

Salomón Huerta.

Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica

October 21-November 25, 2000

With a sold-out exhibition, and talk of upcoming shows at Larry Gagosian’s New York and London Galleries, Salomón Huerta at 35, may single-handedly be reviving the term a painter’s painter. Well know for his paintings of the backs of heads, the exhibition contains three absolutely pristine examples, plus two seated figures (a variation on his standing figures), all from 2000, all in oil.

Born in “TJ,” Huerta has been in Los Angeles since he was four. He first gained notice for his markedly political illustration work. Like many Latinos of his generation, Huerta has moved away from the confines of Chicano Art and is ready to stand on his own two feet, and yet in the candy story of aesthetic and cultural hyperbole, Huerta retains his criticality. Uniformed in khakis and solid shirts, his figures turn away from the viewer in a gesture that is more ambivalent than resistant. Clearly, the current work acknowledges the objectifying power of gaze.

In Untitled Head (Orange Background), 2000, the opaque orange of the background looks more like the frosting on a Halloween cookie than a description of deep space, and as such, presses up against the finely rendered form of the head. Its dimpled crown and rippled neck remain visible beneath each individually painted hair. Refreshingly colorful and lusciously painted, his figures are set against solid backgrounds of acid-green, fuchsia-purple and red-orange. The figures are rendered in everything from rich chocolate browns to orangy-pinks. Leveling race, class, and even gender, one can only discern that they are young enough to have no more than one or two creases on their necks. Cloaked within a stroke-free finish, their naturalistic skulls and closely cropped hair (if any) stand before the viewer, who, unlike the 19th century phrenologist, see little more than visual patterns amongst their protuberances.

Fundamentally about the pleasures of looking -at paint on canvas. One is also capable of registering that each of the figure turns away from the viewer –presenting the backs of their heads in an act of resistance, a solitary act which nevertheless acknowledges to power of looking. At the same time, this anonymity triggers another form of voyeuristic pleasure. Whether a warrior at rest, or a mall-dad at Starbuck’s, it is the viewer  who is empowered to decide their fate.

Pushing in a new direction, seven paintings of San Bernadino houses are also included in the exhibition. Writing of his original photographs, a recent LA Times article called them “shabby, dull houses fronted by burnt-out grass,“  which Huerta transforms into jewel-like abstractions.  The houses, like the heads, are highly stylized but lack some of the visual tension inherent to his juxtaposition of illusionistic heads atop simplified torsos. Among the most striking is, Untitled House (Green), 2000, rendered with olive drab bushes, acid green walls, warm gray tar paper and walkways, all nestled beneath a pale blue sky. Originating at the central axis, Scrubs, windows, gables and walkways are mirrored in the two halves, suggesting some fantastic Rorschach for suburban bliss. Like the portraits, these idealized houses mask economic realities and transform specificity into universality, and whether social erasure or aesthetic equality, Huerta opens the dialogue, leaving the responsibility of the gaze with the viewer.

Ken Gonzales-Day

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