Headed out to downtown Mesa to visit the Mesa Arts Center, with Dolores. Currently they’re showing two contemporary artists who draw, on paper. Because I teach drawing, the snail mail invite I received, caught my attention. The postcard hangs in my studio until this morning, when I take it down to look at it again.
As I sit writing about the visit, I recall noting the glass, as I walk into the individual galleries. One artist, who works large-scale uses regular reflective glass, and the other, whose work is smaller, uses non-glare glass. If I didn’t know we were viewing drawings, I could guess by the protective glass.
We enter the gallery where Vincent Valdez’s Stations are hanging. One quick glance at the large, black charcoal works on paper and I’m pulled in. Figurative. Dense. Dark. I take the whole room in, I glance at the artist statement, and then I begin looking at individual drawings. There are 10 of them, total. I understand Valdez is referring to The Stations of The Cross, that are present in every Catholic Church, and depict the final hours of Christ’s life. These artworks depict a boxers final days. We see the boxer being escorted down the isle to the rink, preparing to fight, eventually there is a knock out, a lifeless form, and then the boxer rises. Ready to go again.
The figures are large, looming, and striking, in a charcoal rendered environment, speckled with various characters. Valdez skews a few of the compositions within their frame, and with the title as support, we (the viewers of the artwork) become the audience, we become the mob.
I realize much later, I know his work. I clearly remember Valdez’s series of Pachuco prints, at the El Paso Art Museum, years ago. His work was part of the traveling Cheech Marin collection. I loved his work then, and I love it now. Though the imagery is very different. He’s young, clearly skilled, and clever. What he does with the figure, space and charcoal…is incredible. I can’t get a good shot…because these are large and dark drawings as I said, and they’re behind glass. The flash distracts. Fact is, because the works are covered with glass the viewer (myself, in this case) is always reflected and present in the image. This only adds to the experience of being a witness to the boxers final hours.
Though I like all the work for varying reasons, my favorite drawing is the lifeless body of the boxer as it lies on a table. The horizontal, larger than life figure. is stunning. His laced boots, along with the rest of him, is at eye level. My least favorite is the suggested risen boxer. Compared to all of the work, this figure is portrayed life-size or near so. Perhaps unlike the Christ, the boxer is brought back down to earth.
The back gallery holds Chris Rush portraits. the show is titled Stare. And stare closely, we do. Upon entering you might think you’re looking at paintings. The work, along with the space has a warm, intimate quality about it. Especially in comparison to what we just saw. Again, all the works are drawings, mostly Conte′. That they look like paintings is deliberate, I realize, as I read the artists statement. Rush paints people of various ages, with either physical and/or mental disabilities. He places them in compositions familiar to anyone who’s studied art history. Rush’s subject matter is oddly beautiful and the subject oddly dignified. The surface is sensual, even the paper is wonderfully worked. The quality of the entire exhibit is completely inviting.
If you’ve taken a drawing class with me, you should take the time to visit these exhibits. You’ll be familiar with all the materials and you may be stimulated by the work.
Before we leave the Mesa Center for the Arts, I drop by The Store. I don’t see Andrea, the manager56. The store carries my lithograph, and a few of my prints. They have new things in there…always a good experience to see what’s happening out on the east side of the valley. Dolores and I enjoy the experience.