Sunday, October 15, 2017

Jose Maria Cundin at Callan Contemporary

What's with all those weirdly wavy Spanish paintings, anyway? Rounded forms can be alluring but only Spanish artists have made them as immortal as Picasso's curvy, convoluted concoctions or Joan Miro's mysterious blobby squiggles – and only Fernando Botero could get away with a chubby Christ in his crucifixion scenes. Jose Maria Cundin, born in Spain in 1938, was an accomplished artist when he landed in New Orleans in 1964. Here his surreal paintings of impish Latin characters quickly found a following. Despite occasional sojourns in Spain, Paris and Miami, he remains a local presence at his sprawling studio compound across the lake in Folsom. Along the way, his figures morphed into vividly colorful clusters of blobs and fragments that retained oddly human sensibilities.


In this new show, those blobby forms have begun reverting back into human figures again, at least partially. Maybe it was a nihilist impulse that made him turn blobby in the first place, but the recent rise of nihilistic infantile narcissism in American politics has made even artists look relatively responsible by default, and here Cundin tackles political tackiness in The Supreme Leader, top, a literally larger than life demagogue in gold finery, striking a grandiose pose. His regal abode includes a fat cat grasping a Barbie doll and a mousetrap baited with cash, but his head is a pulsing miasma of incoherent blobs. Maybe America's recent banana republic tendencies inspired Cundin's reprise of picaresque Latin stereotypes like deranged dictators and priests. Non-Denominational Preacher Showing the Way, above, depicts a sanctimonious blob figure clutching a cowed congregant, but Exercises in Yoga (Extreme Levitation) takes a lighter approach to social commentary. Dark Room of the Bourbons depicts ghastly green fragments swarming like demons from the dank dungeons of history -- but the most poignant is The Unqualified Candidate, a view of an empty chair accompanied by a blobby humanoid zombie -- a manic morass of incoherent impulses grasping at an aura of authority that eternally eludes him. ~Bookhardt / The Supreme Leader and Other Ponderables: New Paintings by Jose Maria Cundin, Through Oct. 30th, Callan Contemporary, 518 Julia St., 525-0518;