Pasatiempo - - Onstage This Week - Michael Abatemarco For The New Mex­i­can

color [is] some­thing I find ap­peal­ing. I feel that a lot of times if it’s not on a wall in a mu­seum or gallery, it’s not con­sid­ered art. I wish it were treated with a lit­tle more re­spect on both sides — that peo­ple might take the time to no­tice it and see it for its strengths. But I also wish the artists them­selves would be a lit­tle more re­spect­ful of the prop­erty and en­vi­ron­ment they place it in.”

Ev­i­dence of the var­i­ous in­flu­ences in Wood’s art ex­tends be­yond stylis­tic ap­pli­ca­tions to spe­cific ref­er­ences in the sub­ject mat­ter. For in­stance, a grid of nine graf­fiti paint­ings called Booger Masks is based on tra­di­tional Chero­kee masks worn as part of a dance that de­vel­oped in re­sponse to the un­ease re­sult­ing from Euro­pean set­tlers en­croach­ing on In­dian land. The se­ries is done as mul­ti­ples in a ref­er­ence to Andy Warhol. An­other paint­ing de­picts a field of corn­stalks with ex­posed ker­nels ex­plod­ing into pop­corn. “It’s my way of blend­ing In­dian art and Pop art,” Wood said of the paint­ing, ti­tled POP­corn! “I wanted to show that In­dian art draws on a whole world of dif­fer­ent in­flu­ences. I think there is plenty of room for tra­di­tional and more mod­ern takes on In­dian art. I’m ex­cited that there are so many Na­tive artists work­ing with a more mod­ern spin, open­ing up new doors and ideas and draw­ing on those dif­fer­ent in­flu­ences.”

In ad­di­tion to the Pop-art paint­ings, Wood’s show in­cludes three large ce­ramic ves­sels that in­cor­po­rate the hand-built slab-and-coil method he learned from Osti. The re­duc­tion of flo­ral de­sign el­e­ments to flat, ba­sic shapes is in keep­ing with a Pop aes­thetic. So, too, are the ves­sels’ vi­brant col­ors — a look that seems to carry over from his paint­ings, which are ren­dered flat, hav­ing more to do with shapes painted in uni­form col­ors than with vary­ing tones and de­tails.

This kind of look trans­lates well in Re­moval, a reimag­in­ing of Pi­casso’s Guer­nica that Wood based on the Trail of Tears, the forced dis­place­ment and re­lo­ca­tion of south­east­ern In­dian tribes in the 1830s to what is now Ok­la­homa. Pi­casso’s orig­i­nal paint­ing was named for a Basque town bombed by Ger­man planes in 1937, dur­ing the Span­ish Civil War. How Wood came to paint Re­moval is a tes­ta­ment to the en­dur­ing power of Guer­nica. “I was over in Spain at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid,” he said. “I for­got the paint­ing was there. I turned a corner, and there it was. It just stayed with me, and I wanted to do my own take on it. I started re­search­ing Guer­nica and re­search­ing the Trail of Tears. I was try­ing to draw ref­er­ence points to the Chero­kees’ re­moval.”

By di­vorc­ing the orig­i­nal paint­ing from spe­cific his­tor­i­cal mark­ers or ref­er­ence points, other than the ti­tle, Pi­casso’s state­ment be­came a gen­eral

Stephen Wood: POP­corn!, 2010, acrylic on can­vas, 36 x 48 inches Be­low left, Jes­sica’s Flow­ers, 2010, mixed me­dia, 17 x 14 inches

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