Pasatiempo - - Art in Review - — Dou­glas Fair­field

Harry Fon­seca: In the Si­lence of Dusk, Mu­seum of In­dian Arts & Cul­ture, 710 Camino Lejo, Mu­seum Hill, 476-1250; through Jan. 2, 2011 There are worse cre­ations an artist could be re­mem­bered for than a car­toon­ish coy­ote— think of the Pills­bury Dough­boy or Qu­atchi, Miga, and Sumi, the mas­cots of the 2010 Win­ter Olympics (oh my). But the artis­tic legacy of Santa Fe artist Harry Fon­seca will, in­deed, be for­ever linked to his stylis­tic im­age of Coy­ote, the sym­bolic trick­ster com­mon to sev­eral Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­tures. As ren­dered by Fon­seca, Coy­ote was a danc­ing hep­cat in a zoot suit and a zip­pered, leather-clad tough guy, among many other guises, and is ar­guably an em­blem of New Mex­ico sec­ond only to the Zia sun sym­bol. But Fon­seca (of Nise­nan Maidu, Hawai­ian, and Por­tuguese de­scent) orig­i­nally con­ceived his col­or­ful and en­dear­ing howler in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia years prior to his move to Santa Fe in 1990. Fon­seca lived here un­til his death in 2006.

Harry Fon­seca: In the Si­lence of Dusk all but ig­nores Coy­ote, bar­ring a small black-and-white

etch­ing among 26 pieces that clearly demon­strate the skill and many-lay­ered aes­thetic of this tal­ented artist. The show fea­tures paint­ings, mixed-me­dia work, and prints from four dis­tinct se­ries— In the Si­lence of Dusk, Stone Po­ems,

St. Fran­cis of As­sisi, and Sea­sons— cre­ated by Fon­seca be­tween 1992 and 2002. Also in­cluded as some­thing of a side­bar are two etch­ings from the 1970s ( Coy­ote and Toto Dancers) and seven sketch­book pages from his Rock Art #1 fo­lio, done in 1986. The en­tirety of the work dis­played was culled from the Santa Fe-based Harry Fon­seca Trust by MIAC cu­ra­tor Va­lerie Verzuh.

Com­mon to all of the work in the show is Fon­seca’s ex­pres­sive mark mak­ing, both from a ges­tu­ral stand­point and in terms of the con­trolled ac­ci­dent. Each paint­ing, whether on can­vas or pa­per sup­port, con­veys the artist’s vi­tal­ity in ap­ply­ing his mark and, in some cases, dis­plays where he de­lib­er­ately al­lowed the paint to splat­ter, drip, or smear. Clearly, Ab­stract Ex­pres­sion­ism, par­tic­u­larly action paint­ing, left its mark on Fon­seca. This is demon­strated in his Sea­sons se­ries, in which one will im­me­di­ately make the as­so­ci­a­tion with Jack­son Pol­lock’s nonob­jec­tive paint­ings. Un­like Pol­lock’s large-scale work, Fon­seca’s acrylics on pa­per are com­par­a­tively in­ti­mate, yet they em­body small gal­ax­ies of over­lap­ping swipes and ex­tended marks in tan­gled webs of dense, opaque colors. Ex­am­in­ing Fon­seca’s var­ied brush­strokes is a bit like read­ing a road map— they lead you in all sorts of di­rec­tions from one side of the com­po­si­tion to the other and from top to bot­tom and back again. Less col­or­ful, but more dy­namic in its vis­ual foot­print is Win­ter Soli­tude, Black Bird (2002), ex­e­cuted in three shades of brown amid lin­ear, swirling flight pat­terns of black and white.

The nonob­jec­tive na­ture of Fon­seca’s Sea­sons sep­a­rates it from the other work in the ex­hi­bi­tion. Al­though the other work is highly ab­stract in char­ac­ter, it is none­the­less rep­re­sen­ta­tional. Ei­ther by sight or ti­tle, one rec­og­nizes St. Fran­cis, a winged Icarus, and as­sorted sym­bols taken from pet­ro­glyphs and pic­tographs, in­clud­ing some that make ref­er­ence to the Maidu cre­ation story— a theme Fon­seca re­vis­ited through­out his life.

Two mixed-me­dia paint­ings on raw can­vas, for ex­am­ple, in which Fon­seca presents the full fig­ure of St. Fran­cis sil­hou­et­ted in black, are laden with mean­ing. One con­sid­ers the wel­com­ing em­brace of the Catholic faith, yet also its dark his­tory of ab­so­lutism and in­tim­i­da­tion. Without the ti­tles— both are des­ig­nated as Saint Fran­cis

of As­sisi (one dates from 1999, the other 2000) — Fon­seca’s con­toured, face­less fig­ures could be as­so­ci­ated with any num­ber of Euro­pean or tribal re­li­gious nar­ra­tives. The fig­ure’s stance may be seen in a va­ri­ety of ways: au­thor­i­ta­tive, omi­nous, con­fronta­tional, or be­nign, de­pend­ing upon your in­ter­pre­ta­tion and be­lief sys­tem. Above all, the fig­ure dom­i­nates the pic­ture plane and draws one’s at­ten­tion. Even if seen only as a vis­ual el­e­ment, Fon­seca’s soli­tary fig­ure is hard to ig­nore.

The sheer bold­ness of the Stone Po­ems se­ries, done be­tween 1992 and 1996, dis­plays Fon­seca’s at­ten­tion to sur­face qual­ity and vis­ual dy­nam­ics. Here he has in­cor­po­rated sand into his acrylic medium, which adds an­other di­men­sion to his tech­nique and re­lates the work more di­rectly to the rock-carved pet­ro­glyphs that in­spired him. Highly dec­o­ra­tive in their lim­ited pal­ette and allover ex­e­cu­tion, Fon­seca’s sym­bolic fig­ures, white crosses, float­ing spi­rals, and in­ci­den­tal marks con­vey an Ab­stract Ex­pres­sion­ist qual­ity with a Na­tive mo­tif. Sep­a­rately, th­ese pieces would act like bea­cons if in­stalled in a cav­ernous gallery, while if placed in a home en­vi­ron­ment, they would dom­i­nate other sur­round­ing dé­cor. Their place­ment in the hall­way ex­hi­bi­tion space doesn’t give them much breath­ing room, but the over­all pre­sen­ta­tion of the exhibit is nicely done.

When Fon­seca died of brain can­cer in 2006 at the age of 60, he left a body of work in­dica­tive of an artist on top of his game, with the ex­pec­ta­tion of more to come. Ac­cord­ing to Verzuh, the Fon­seca trust con­tains more than 1,200 works of art, pri­mar­ily paint­ings and draw­ings. Sadly, his death cut short a vi­tal ca­reer filled with an­tic­i­pa­tion and prom­ise. One can only spec­u­late as to how his art might have evolved, let alone what state­ments he had left to make. In the Si­lence of Dusk is by no means a ret­ro­spec­tive ex­hi­bi­tion, but a wor­thy trib­ute that says plenty.

One on One, SITE Santa Fe, 1606 Paseo de Per­alta, 989-1199; through May 9 Sense of self has al­ways been tied, one way or an­other, to sense of place. Hasan Elahi’s live video feed called Tracking Tran­sience: The Orwell Project is a good place to be­gin un­der­stand­ing SITE Santa Fe’s lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion,

One on One. If you have ever tried to zoom in on your ex­act lo­ca­tion us­ing Google Earth and imag­ined the pos­si­bil­ity of get­ting so close you could wave back at your­self over your com­puter mon­i­tor, Tracking Tran­sience should im­me­di­ately res­onate with you. The live feed tracks Elahi’s ev­ery move­ment. We have lit­tle trou­ble get­ting our driv­ing di­rec­tions on­line and pulling up an as­so­ci­ated map, one that shows satel­lite views and street views of the lo­ca­tion we seek. The prob­lem is that some­one else could be pulling up im­ages of our lo­ca­tion, too. The tech­nol­ogy is cer­tainly there. How comfortable should we be with that? Elahi was once de­tained at an air­port af­ter a neigh­bor falsely ac­cused him of in­volve­ment in the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks. That is what neigh­bors do in an Or­wellian so­ci­ety: they turn each other in. SITE presents Elahi’s work as an ex­ag­ger­a­tion of the tech­nol­ogy-driven lives we lead to­day: he even broad­casts pho­to­graphs of ev­ery meal he eats over the live feed. Ul­ti­mately, any sense of the in­di­vid­ual gets lost in the mul­ti­tude of im­ages com­ing to us over a bank of mon­i­tors, and they amount to an ab­strac­tion.

Kaari Up­son, an­other One on One artist, has cre­ated a body of work that, though it is os­ten­si­bly a chron­i­cle of the semi-fic­ti­tious life of a man named Larry, is re­ally some­thing more spe­cific in its SITE man­i­fes­ta­tion: a maze in which the true self, with its hopes and de­sires and its need for real in­ti­macy in hu­man re­la­tion­ships, is lost in sex­ual ad­dic­tion.

Au­ton­omy, a col­lage of draw­ings spread over the wall as an ex­plo­sion of Larry’s mem­o­ries, un­der­scores the sense of long­ing and, per­haps, of loss that drives peo­ple to seek in­ti­macy through pornog­ra­phy: the thing that of­fers the quick fix. As the ti­tle hints, this could be about any­body. We don’t know Larry’s last name and, sadly, it doesn’t mat­ter. He is us.

One on One is the most ac­com­plished show at SITE in the past year. Of­fer­ing glimpses of the in­di­vid­ual through the themes of ob­ses­sion, ex­hi­bi­tion­ism, and mad­ness, there is more than one as­pect of the show that will grab you and speak to you. Terry Allen’s mul­ti­me­dia in­stal­la­tion

Ghost Ship Rodez, based on an episode in the life of the ac­tor, artist, and poet An­tonin Ar­taud, who spent years in and out of men­tal in­sti­tu­tions, is a homage that, as em­bod­ied in Ghost Ship, a sculp­ture in­stal­la­tion of Ar­taud’s bed sail­ing over a sea of books, be­comes ele­giac. Allen’s own ob­ses­sion with Ar­taud adds a haunt­ing twist to this chron­i­cle of mad­ness.

Your first and last glimpse of the work in One on One will be of Brad McCallum and Jac­que­line Tarry’s in­ti­mate videos, the action in which seems al­most chore­ographed, as though it were bal­let. In th­ese videos, two peo­ple, a man and a woman, em­brace each other ten­derly, with the fa­mil­iar­ity of lovers. In a strange way, even though the McCallum and Tarry in­stal­la­tion sug­gests more about in­ter­de­pen­dence or the com­plete­ness one may feel in the other (the theme of op­po­sites runs through­out the artists’ work), it pro­vides a good start­ing and re­turn point for the darker themes One on One of­fers deeper in­side the space.

— Michael Abatemarco

Harry Fon­seca: Saint Fran­cis of As­sisi, 1999, mixed me­dia on can­vas, 66 x 36 inches

Stone Poem #75, 1992, acrylic on can­vas,

60 x 48 inches

McCallum & Tarry: Topsy-Turvy, 2006, in­stal­la­tion view at SITE Santa Fe; cour­tesy the artists and Caren Golden Fine Arts, New York

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