In Memoriam: As we enter 2009, I would like to express my personal appreciation to a great American artist who has recently passed away. Paula Rodriguez, along with her husband, Eliseo, almost single-handedly revived the art of straw appliqué during the nineteen-thirties. Since then she has produced many works, taught several generations of family and others to carry on the craft, earned many awards both local and national, and had her work placed in numerous museum collections. Mrs. Rodriguez will be sorely missed by many. Go see her work at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, (750 Camino Lejo).
For broader perspective on the influence that she and her husband have had, go next door to the Museum of International Folk Art (706 Camino Lejo, exhibition opens December 28) where Lloyd's Treasure Chest, a delightful hands-on cubby in the Museum's lower level, has been re-installed with objects from New Mexico. Nuevo Mexico: El Corazon de la Cultura, while the Museum's Hispanic Heritage Wing is being renovated, the traditional cornerstones of New Mexican Hispanic culture: tradition, soul, spirit, and art are visible in the objects displayed. From metal-smithing to weaving, from recycled art to straw-appliqué, the resilience and particularity of art in a remote area that yet remains touched by the cosmopolitan shines through.
In a wonderful pink-and-white picture frame a tinted photograph of two children speaks of whimsy and an attempt to bestow preciousness on the image. The icon of the Sacred Heart is present in this show both in a splendid pendant by Santa Fean Lawrence Baca and in a free-standing piece by El Rito artist Nicholas Herrera.
The New Year brings in another chance to look at multiple media at Zane Bennett Contemporary Art Gallery (435 S. Guadalupe Street, Reception: Friday, January 9, 5 - 7 pm). Paper/ Glass/ Metal showcases the work of James Perigord in paper, Stephen Auger in glass, and Ed Zelenak in metal. Phenomenology is the key that holds these works together as the artists bring to bear questions of awareness that the viewer cannot avoid.
James Perigord was classically trained and has been making paintings and other artwork since the nineteen-fifties. Since moving to Santa Fe seventeen years ago, Perigord has been creating restrained paintings, collages, and collage-decollages. Zane Bennett will feature the artist's collage-decollage pieces. Throughout his career, and across media, Perigord uses the grid as a foundation for mood and structure. In works like Duomo, rather riotous biomorphic shapes spill over, refer to and ultimately counterpoint the underlying frame of the grid. Like the continual self-reference of jazz or the ever-subtle corrections of a downhill skier (and Perigord is a terrific skier) there is a sensation of being pulled into the moment, of forcing experience to become consciousness.
Stephen Auger paints with glass. Ignoring the near-universal call to exploit glass's three-dimensional qualities, the Santa Fe-based artist pours tiny glass spheres over paint, allowing the glass to melt and make patterns. Revealing underlying patterns and processes (think fractals for a second) these pieces hark back to natural patterning and the distribution of light and matter. Auger, who once attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has long been fascinated with the physics of light and perception of color. The works scintillate before the eye. In contrast to Perigord's holding the image accountable to the plane through the grid, Auger's work exists in an uncertain play of the approach and retreat of light.
Says the artist, "The experience of painting and viewing my work is about sensing. I think about the space in between breaths, a moment when we are neither inhaling nor exhaling, a moment of stillness. For me that moment expresses the very essence of living, it is a portal of awareness that constantly brings me back to this moment."
Ed Zelenak hails from the time and school of Minimalist sculpture. Carl Andre, Richard Serra and Robert Morris share a fundamental sense of truth in materials, but more importantly truth - in - objectness. But in traditional Minimalism expression is frowned upon and subjected to (um) the phenomenalism of subjective experience. In other words, it makes little difference what the artist intended and a great deal of difference what the viewer participant perceived. Zelenak not only has intention, but subject matter. One of his recurring motifs is the divining rod. A divining rod, of course, is a tool used to clarify human perception and to point out truths that may be hidden from or underlie what we can know. It orients us not only to different things to know but to different ways of knowing. That is to say, the epistemology of phenomenology.