Painter Fabio D’Aroma’s characters perpetually march westward, though it’s unclear to what end. His nude men and women with protruding bellies and knobby limbs appear to be part of an endless procession. D’Aroma adorns them with anachronistic accouterments such as 19th-century bayonets, animal pelts and punk rock mohawks, making it impossible to determine the continuity between the various works in the series. His highly stylized paintings are currently on view at New York’s Jonathan LeVine Gallery through November 8 for his solo show, “West of Ovest.” The artist says that our culture’s crippling obsession with social media — and the resulting social awkwardness — was the inspiration behind his ungainly figures.
Chinese painter Fu Lei creates floating compositions with robust forms that defy physical laws. The rounded, voluptuous bodies of his human characters evoke the work of Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, while the airy cornucopias of plants and animals are reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki’s whimsical animations. Fu Lei treats the human characters in his work like objects in a still life, weaving them into ornate arrangements of flora and fauna. He intentionally conceals their faces and genders to keep the narrative of his work as open-ended as possible. His upcoming show at Art Plural Gallery in Singapore, “Dreams of Desire,” investigates lust, vice and humanity’s penchant for excess.
Chilean painter Guillermo Lorca Garcia-Huidobro creates monumental works on canvas with compositions that always seem to ascend in an upward spiral. In one piece, the viewer gazes up at a larger-than-life teenage girl while a child, miniature in comparison, clings on to her for safety. In another piece, various creatures scale a barren, crooked tree trunk that looks more like a tree of death than a tree of life, with a little girl attempting to escape the vulture’s nest at the top. Lorca Garcia-Hiodobro executes his surrealist vision with loose brush strokes that leave details muddled and backgrounds incomplete, inviting the open-ended images to mingle with the viewers’ own childhood nightmares and anxieties.
Steven Spazuk paints with the flame of his candle like the hairs of a brush, charring paper and delicately sculpting the soot with feathers, paintbrushes and other tools. His work retains the undulating quality of smoke, but certain sections are carved out with a realist precision. In his latest series, Spazuk juxtaposes birds with destructive hardware: grenades, spray cans, stove burners. Titled “Ornithocide,” the series is a reaction to the heavy use of pesticides in North America and the consequential poisoning of insect-eating birds. “Since this industrial revolution, we are quite comfortable with the idea that we can poison insects to seemingly cleanse our homes and protect our crops,” Spazuk wrote in his artist statement. “We collectively and conveniently avoid thinking about the impacts of these suicidal choices. How can it make sense to lace our food and dwellings with poisons? How dare we impose these deadly choices on all other forms of life?”
Belgian artist Cindy Wright’s realist approach to her paintings is straightforward and traditional, but her subject matter imbues her work with an haunting, enigmatic ambiance. Wright is interested in death and decay. Her still lifes focus on single objects — one polished skull, a slab of fresh meat bleeding on the ground. Presented to us without context or an explanation, the morbid subjects exemplify the physicality of flesh. In this way, her work continues the Northern Renaissance tradition of vanitas paintings, still lifes meant to evoke the passage of time and one’s inevitable mortality.
Bright flora bursts in Kent Williams’s paintings (featured in HF Vol. 21). Thick brushstrokes of hot pink, mint and navy hint at an arrangement of organic growths. Williams frequently positions his subjects in the outdoors, where they inhabit areas that seem wild and overgrown yet feel contained like miniature Edens. His characters fervently move as if enacting a frenetic dance performance, their motion captured by his expressive use of paint. While Williams has been widely recognized for his figurative work over the past 20 years, his first solo show with 101/Exhibit in Los Angeles, “How Human of You,” marks a shift into abstraction. Figures are still present in many of the works, but Williams removes the idea of time and place, instead suspending them in an imaginary space where his flamboyant color choices elicit a visceral, emotional response.