Sunday, March 12, 2017

On the Brink: Luis Cruz Azaceta at Arthur Roger

On the Brink seems an unusual title for a geometric abstract painting show. The crisp geometry of traditional art deco, op or minimalist design, like the sleek lines of modern architecture epitomize a optimistic kind of rationalism, but Luis Cruz Azaceta was forever marked by the chaos that characterized the Cuban revolution and his life as a youthful refugee. That pathos fueled his rise as a leading neo- expressionist painter in 1980s New York while instilling a deep empathy for outsiders and migrants. His new works infuse geometric compositions with the unsettled tone of the times in colorfully contrapuntal works defined by buoyantly slinky mambo-like rhythms that reflect an indelibly Cuban sensibility despite his over two decades in New Orleans and half-century in the U.S.
Like New Orleans, Cuba is a Creole blend of Euro and Afro - Caribbean cultures and Azaceta's wall size- canvas, The Big Easy, top, suggests a jazzy distillation of our diverse DNA via colorful wedges that evoke the bold patterning of African textiles -- and perhaps our crazy quilt street life -- in a progression of architectonic forms that recall Professor Longhair's tango-inflected R & B crescendos. Similarly oscillating stacks of brilliant, primary colored wedges in A Question of Color 666, top left, looks buoyant at first glance, but the dominant stacks of horizontal wedges are flanked by diagonal triangular slashes that seem pushed off to the side in a way that looks less stable and more vulnerable to the forces of gravity. Orlando seems alluringly vibrant, but is punctuated with unsettling splash patterns of black dots like bullet holes. Earlier Azaceta motifs are reprised in No Exit 2, an Orwellian maze of serpentine black and swirling caution- vest green forms that suggest the cat and mouse interplay of control and chaos that characterizes early 21st century life. But Blue Riot, left, while recent, harks to Azaceta's traditional neo-expressionsim in similarly swirling, maze-like tangles that suggest America's seemingly endless convolutions of societal dysfunction in an age when both black and blue lives matter but equitable resolution remains an elusive ideal. ~Bookhardt / On the Brink: Paintings by Luis Cruz Azaceta, Through April 22, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999.
Related: Theaster Gates and the Art of Community.