Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Justine Rivas at The Valley

Installation view: Justine Rivas, How to Carry a Cloud.
Photo courtesy of The Valley


Justine Rivas: How to Carry a Cloud

Up through August 7, 2021

The Valley

1800 Camino del La Placita, Unit D

Taos, NM 87571

From the Press Release:

The Valley is pleased to present its first solo exhibition with Los Angeles-based painter Justine Rivas. The exhibition, titled How to carry a cloud, includes a series of new paintings that explore hidden sources of water in the desert landscape.

Rivas uses clouds and creosote bushes as metaphors for the interconnected sources of life-giving moisture in arid regions. Both reflect water stored in the land and the air, deceptively close and yet inaccessible. Cloud forms appear across several works, oscillating between pattern and landscape. As above, so below- creosote in its various forms appear as a familiar and familial plant speaking to the artists’ connection to the desert landscape, her family has lived in the borderlands since time immemorial.

Creosote dominates the landscape of Arizona, Los Angeles, Texas and New Mexico. The creosote plant is incredibly resilient to drought, retaining water from rain above and the aquifer below. The root systems of mature creosote plants are simply so efficient at absorbing water that fallen seeds nearby cannot accumulate enough water to germinate, effectively creating dead zones around every plant. The Spanish word “creosote” translates to governes; and while a harsh and hardy plant that takes from the land, it also returns the favor in the form of medicinal uses first discovered by indigenous peoples of the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan regions. People local to these areas associate the smell of creosote with desert rain.

The largest work in the exhibition, Chaparral, creosotes’ common name, is a dreamy desert landscape spanning over sixteen feet in length. Large fluffy clouds loom above dry mountains and creosote forms in various stages of bloom dance across the canvas.

These works are an attempt at a reparative dialogue with the land and complicated histories both personal and collective. 

About the artist:

Justine Rivas (b. 1991) grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. Her recent work is at the intersection of observational painting and studio knowledge. She is interested in understanding relationships to and through connections to the desert land. Justine is a current MFA candidate at UCLA.

*All photos © the blog author except where indicated.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Santa Fe: High Desert High! at Smoke the Moon


Jon Cowan, I Saw the End, 2021, oil and acrylic on canvas, 12 x 10 in.

For my first post in quite a while, I wanted to present a photo essay of a recent show in Santa Fe. 

High Desert High! at Smoke the Moon features work by 22 artists from LA to London and many places in between  and is billed as "A summer salon of important paintings celebrating the Dez."

In much of the work presented here, there is a strange sense of spare tranquility punctuated by an underlying sense of expectation (Aryo Toh Djojo, and Will Bruno to name two).

While Rat Face, a painter from the U.K. uses an economical palette to depict deftly rendered scenes of futile desperation and dark humor. 
There is a conceptual complexity in her piece, Head in the Sand as well as in the always sublime work of Jon Cowan.  Both present us with a glimmer of a somber uncertainty (or certainty) that sets their painting apart from much of the vibrant, humorously cool and laid-back work in the show.

In addition to the artists mentioned above, I want to take note of Lydia Maria Pfeffer's strange and playful painting Lucy's Ice Cream as well as her surreally intimate and fun series of Pink Lizzard drawings.

The energy and attention to craft of all the artists and the curation- the way all of the works interacted with one another- made this an exciting and welcome event and I'm looking forward to the next offering from this new and soon-to-be important space.


High Desert High!

101 West Marcy Street
Suite 203
Santa Fe, NM

Rat Face, Head in the Sand, 2021, acrylic on wood, 9 x 11.25 in.

Aryo Toh Djojo, Granny Panties,  2021, acrylic on canvas over panel, 11 x 14 in.
Aryo Toh Djojo, Lotaburger, 2021, acrylic on canvas over panel, 11 x 14.5 in.

Will Bruno, After the Deluge, 2021, oil on canvas and artists frame, 24 x 18 in.

Paige Turner-Uribe, Buzzard Land (detail), 2019, oil on canvas, 22 x 18 in.

Danielle Winger, The Mommy Tree, 2021, oil on panel, 16 x 12 in.

Jon Cowan, Two Voids Rising and Setting on a Dark Octagonal Track, 2021, oil and acrylic on linen over panel, 10 in. octagon.

Lydia Maria Pfeffer, Lucy's Ice Cream, 2021, oil on canvas.

Alex Cutler, Angus, 2021, graphite and colored pencil on paper, 17 x 21 in.

Matthew Rosenquist, Maynard Dixon Van, 2021, acrylic on carved wood, 15 x 5.5 x 6 in.

Devon Clapp, Terminal Beach (detail), 2019, oil on canvas, 24 x 18 in.

Javi Ramirez, I'm Back, what I miss?, 2021, acrylic on canvas over panel, 36 x 36 in.

Julia Schwartz, Aurora, 2011, oil on canvas, 12 x 12 in.

Smoke the Moon is located one block north of the Plaza on W MarcyStreet between Lincoln and Washington.