Sunday, December 12, 2010

Charbonnet at Arthur Roger; Cundin at Bienvenu


Jose Maria Cundin is elusive, chimerical; he has exhibited here since the 1960s but is rarely seen. A one time resident of Broadmoor who now lives in Folsom, he spent a number of years in Miami in between. His work is also slippery, and his TWELVE ANTI-PORTRAITS show is aptly titled because the images are totally abstract, depicting no one's actual appearance. But Cundin is a master colorist, and color is a quality of light, and light is what people radiate. While no one's visage is actually visible, Cundin gives us the colors of his subjects' personalities instead, like a collection of so many painterly mood rings. So CHAVEZ, WHY DON'T YOU SHUT UP?, top, is an uneasy agglomeration of red, green and tangerine blobs shifting disconsolately and radiating the kind of unholy crimson glow that we might expect from Venezuela's caffeinated loose cannon president.  But in CARLOS GARDEL SINGING "MUNECA BRAVA," left, the articulated blobs seem to almost gyrate in harmony with the music of the legendary Argentine tango singer-songwriter. And RUBEN DARIO OBSERVING HIS OWN BRAIN is complex, as introspection often is, even for the esteemed Nicaraguan founder of Latino literary modernism. Here Cundin gives us a non-objective new form of biographical history painting that relies solely on a visual lexicon of cellular forms and irradiated colors to convey the essential character of his subjects. And once again the canny Basque expatriate escapes any further attempt to define him. 


      Nicole Charbonnet is concerned with images not so much for what they represent as what they symbolize. Her images are iconic, or rather they reflect what is left of iconic forms after time, the elements and erosion--both elemental and mental--have taken their toll. Some things remain but some things are lost as yesterday's symbolic forms erode into today's artifacts in the cultural slurry of images that have outlived their original purpose but linger on to haunt the visual milieu all around us. Here she focuses on flowers. ERASED PICASSO is a play on Robert Rauschenberg's once scandalous gesture of erasing a DeKooning drawing that he then exhibited as a kind of nihilist homage to the ab/ex master. Picasso's iconic pair of hands holding flowers comprises the rare example of his work that comes across as a universal gesture, an image visited and revisited by millions of transient eyes. While the act of looking does not in itself erode images, mass viewing repeated over time affects the way we perceive them, making them slowly fade in consciousness. Here the palimpsestic surfaces and abraded boundaries allow space for a more personal interpretation, so forms that might have become too familiar may be recognized as unique and mysterious once again. ~Bookhardt
FLOWERS: Mixed Media Paintings by Nicole Charbonnet, Through Dec. 24
Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com
TWELVE ANTI-PORTRAITS: New Paintings by Jose-Maria Cundin, Through Jan. 29 

Gallery Bienvenu 518 Julia St., 525-0518; www.gallerybienvenu.com