Graf­fiti-in­spired works by Thomas “Breeze” Mar­cus are shown at Blue Rain Gallery.

Native American Art - - GALLERY PREVIEWS -


To­hono O’odham pain­ter Thomas “Breeze” Mar­cus lives and works in a his­toric neigh­bor­hood in cen­tral Phoenix, a city that has been his vis­ual playground for al­most the en­tirety of his ca­reer. He works mostly from a stu­dio in a garage near the rear of the house, where tubes of paint and spray cans line shelves, hiphop rat­tles from a nearby speaker and his in­tri­cately de­signed art­works—on board, can­vas, gui­tar bod­ies, vinyl records, skate decks and other ma­te­ri­als—fill the walls, ta­bles and easels where he works.

In­side the house, in a makeshift se­cond stu­dio on a cof­fee ta­ble, are sev­eral books, in­clud­ing one large full­color glossy book on street and graf­fiti art. On top of it is a smaller book, one from a dif­fer­ent era, with yel­lowed pa­per and black-and-white il­lus­tra­tions of Na­tive Amer­i­can bas­ketry. The pair­ing cap­tures the artist’s art­work per­fectly. If one is the North Pole, and the other the South Pole, Breeze’s work cir­cles the equa­tor in per­fect har­mony be­tween the two.

“I grew up around bas­ketry all my life, es­pe­cially see­ing it my grand­mother’s house and our fam­ily house in Salt River. It al­ways re­ally in­trigued me to see the pat­terns of the bas­kets. I know how those bas­kets were made by tra­di­tion­ally gather­ing ma­te­ri­als in the desert, in­clud­ing things peo­ple would dis­card and dry weeds. It was amaz­ing see­ing how it all came to­gether,” Breeze says. “See­ing the de­signs it just clicked some­where in me as I was tran­si­tion­ing from a graf­fiti artist to mu­ral artist to fine artist.”

Breeze says many of his cur­rent works call back to early bas­ketry, of­ten To­hono O’odham or Ho­hokam, but through the fil­ter of graf­fiti cul­ture, in which ex­pres­sive

lines and ex­ag­ger­ated forms were bombed onto blank walls in the dark of night. “It’s very much wild­style, which is a form of graf­fiti, in­tri­cate and com­plex with very unique ty­pog­ra­phy,” he says. “I come from that back­ground, but I don’t ad­here to all of those rules. I’m not a bas­ket artist, nor am I a graf­fiti artist any­more, but I’ve taken these in­ter­ests and I’m mesh­ing them to­gether so I can find par­al­lels and un­der­stand how they re­late.”

He con­tin­ues: “I al­ways think about the movie La

Bamba, the story of Ritchie Valens. He was this young Latino kid who was into rock ‘n’ roll,” Breeze says. “He took ev­ery­thing he knew and bridged the gap from his cul­ture by tak­ing tra­di­tional folk songs and in­cor­po­rat­ing them into rock songs. He took all his in­flu­ences and put them to­gether un­til they fit.”

Breeze’s new­est works, in­clud­ing sev­eral that were di­rectly in­spired by Na­tive Amer­i­can bas­ketry, will be on view in a new group show open­ing May 25 at Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mex­ico. The ex­hi­bi­tion,

ti­tled Neo-cul­tural Nar­ra­tives, will also fea­ture new work from Lummi Na­tion glass artist Dan Fri­day, Musco­gee Creek pain­ter Starr Hardridge, and Osage, Kaw and Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux ledger artist Chris Pap­pan.

Works in the show in­clude Breeze’s elab­o­rate acrylic pieces River Peo­ple and Tribal Ter­ri­tory, each with an or­ga­nized and me­thod­i­cal chaos of line and form— and his swirl mo­tifs, which date back more than a thou­sand years and rep­re­sent wa­ter, move­ment and life—as well as a va­ri­ety of other works from the artists who rep­re­sent a va­ri­ety of medi­ums. Pap­pan will be show­ing two new ledgers works, In God’s Im­age II, a graphite and collage work on 1890s pa­per, and Keep­ing the Knowl­edge, with graphite, gold leaf and acrylic paint on an 1871 Chicago jew­eler’s ledger. Fri­day’s new­est cre­ations in­clude Po­lar Bear, a fur­nace-sculpted glass sculp­ture with a mes­mer­iz­ingly translus­cent glass that shim­mers in the light, and Light­ning Bas­ket (Cop­per), which is a wo­ven glass bas­ket in golden col­ors. Hardridge, whose acrylic works have a three-di­men­sional ap­pli­ca­tion that looks more like bead­work than paint, will be show­ing Drifter Mi­rage, which de­picts a male fig­ure and a horse done in a cas­cade of color.

Neo-cul­tural Nar­ra­tives will be on view at Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe through June 9. An artist re­cep­tion will take place May 25, from 5 to 7 p.m.


2. Thomas “Breeze” Mar­cus (To­hono O’odham), Tribal Ter­ri­tory, acrylic on can­vas, 36 x 36" 2

6. Thomas “Breeze” Mar­cus (To­hono O’odham), River

Peo­ple, acrylic and ink on can­vas, 24 x 24" 6

5. Dan Fri­day (Lummi Na­tion), Light­ning Bas­ket (Cop­per), blown glass, 13 x 13" 5

4. Chris Pap­pan (Osage, Kaw and Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux), In God’s

Im­age II, graphite and map collage on 1890s in­sti­tu­tional ledger, 12½ x 11" 4

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