Works by Cruz Salazar at Santa Fe Col­lec­tive

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Michael Abatemarco

The Mes­sen­ger-Spirit in hu­man flesh is as­signed a de­pend­able, self-re­liant, ver­sa­tile, thor­oughly poet ex­is­tence upon its so­journ in life — From the poem “Destiny” by Gre­gory Corso

Cruz Salazar is rid­ing a wave of mo­men­tum. The Santa Fe- born artist has a pop-up ex­hibit — his first — open­ing Fri­day, April 1, at the Santa Fe Col­lec­tive. He re­cently started a web­site,, and has two books out: a hard­cover mono­graph called Ded­i­cated to the Word and Two Jumps to the Mid­night Sun, a pa­per­back of his po­etry and draw­ings. Not bad for be­ing a six­teen-year-old. “To have a pop-up seems like a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion to feed the mo­men­tum, be­cause he’s seem­ingly un­stop­pable at the mo­ment,” said in­de­pen­dent art con­sul­tant Ben Lin­coln, who was hired by Salazar’s fam­ily to help pro­mote the young artist’s work. “It seems like the right time to let the rest of the world be­gin to see these things.”

Salazar comes from a fam­ily with con­nec­tions to art and po­etry. He’s the grand­son of Beat- era poet Gre­gory Corso and nephew of Tasha Os­tran­der, an in­stal­la­tion artist and pho­tog­ra­pher. It is Os­tran­der’s im­print CA- OS Projects that pub­lishes Salazar’s books. “It was a won­der­ful project for me be­cause there was so much of it,” Os­tran­der told Pasatiempo. “I had this stack of im­agery to work with.”

Salazar is a pro­lific artist. He be­gan draw­ing with In­dia ink in 2014, at the be­gin­ning of the school year. Af­ter school, he works in a stu­dio he shares with his older sis­ter Leda, a col­lage artist, and re­mains there for hours. “They work to­gether quite a bit and are kind of in­sep­a­ra­ble,” Os­tran­der said. “They do very dif­fer­ent kinds of work, but they sup­port each other. Leda has a de­gree in stu­dio arts, and so she has been kind of a guide for Cruz.”

While Salazar has the sup­port of his fam­ily, his art­works stand on their own as dy­namic, thought­ful, and thought-pro­vok­ing com­po­si­tions. He has what seems like a nat­u­ral ta­lent and is self-taught. “I’ve never taken art classes or par­tic­i­pated in po­etry read­ings and slams,” Salazar told Pasatiempo. He be­gan mak­ing fig­u­ra­tive im­agery of fan­tas­tic but sim­ply ren­dered crea­tures and com­bined them with vi­o­lent drips and splashes of ink. His early works from 2014 are rem­i­nis­cent of Ralph Stead­man, who is best known for his il­lus­tra­tions in Fear and Loathing in Las Ve­gas and Fear and Loathing: On the Cam­paign Trail ’72 for au­thor Hunter S. Thomp­son. Stead­man is one of a few artists in whom Salazar found di­rect in­spi­ra­tion. “He was a car­toon­ist dur­ing the Viet­nam War and he worked with ink,” Salazar said. “I watched the movie Fear and

Loathing in Las Ve­gas and that’s when I first started.” Over time, Salazar be­gan mov­ing to­ward a more pure form of ab­strac­tion, yet his work has re­mained fig­u­ra­tive to a de­gree. Cer­tain mo­tifs reap­pear with fre­quency, no­tably the “Wan­der­ers,” ink splotches that look or­ganic and alive. Salazar treats them as soul-like char­ac­ters, with bil­low­ing tails and snaking ten­drils that seem to pro­pel them along as they swirl about one an­other like Ja­panese fight­ing fish or, per­haps more aptly, like sper­ma­to­zoa. Salazar in­tro­duces a con­cep­tual com­po­nent into his work with the

Wan­der­ers, whom he has drawn many times. They are al­ways search­ing, al­ways seek­ing. “They’re find­ing where they have to be,” he said. “They are like souls and thoughts, and I think they man­i­fest into some­thing larger if they can reach it. I think some of my po­etry refers to these themes.”

He writes his po­ems at school when not en­gaged in stud­ies and works on his art in the evenings in a ded­i­cated prac­tice. “Since he was a kid he was al­ways ex­tremely or­ga­nized,” Os­tran­der said. “Ev­ery­thing is very or­derly and his time — his fo­cus — is very much like that, too.” While his po­etry of­ten starts with a pre­pon­der­ance of rhyming, as in “Pan­dora” — “Her name was Pan­dora with a pow­er­ful aura” — they set­tle into more philo­soph­i­cal nar­ra­tions as they progress: “And at the bot­tom of the box and with all the evil in the world/As­cended a spirit by the name of Hope.”

Salazar also did a se­ries of sten­cil draw­ings, rem­i­nis­cent of street art, be­fore ex­per­i­ment­ing with var­i­ous other means of ap­ply­ing and ma­nip­u­lat­ing ink. For the Wan­der­ers, for in­stance, he uses his breath to make the fine ten­drils that branch out from the main body of the ab­stract fig­ures.

Color is some­thing Salazar uses spar­ingly in his two- di­men­sional works, usu­ally in min­i­mal­ist com­po­si­tions, such as his The Crea­ture of

Green from 2014. “It’s much dif­fer­ent us­ing color,” he said. “It sug­gests some­thing dif­fer­ent. But I like us­ing black be­cause it’s so much more emo­tional and so much more ex­pres­sive.”

Lan­guage, or the ap­pear­ance of lan­guage, is an­other theme he ex­plores, and he in­cludes his own brand of hi­ero­glyph­ics in some works, though the glyphs have no literal mean­ing. “Ter­ence McKenna talks about vis­i­ble syn­tax,” he said. “That’s where I got the idea.” McKenna was an eth­nob­otanist and mys­tic who ad­vo­cated the use of psychotropic sub­stances in ex­plor­ing al­tered states of con­scious­ness. “The lan­guage em­bed­ded in the draw­ings doesn’t say any­thing, but it’s a sym­bolic phi­los­o­phy that runs through the work,” Os­tran­der said.

Salazar’s most re­cent works are spar­ing in their use of line but ren­dered with pre­ci­sion in ar­range­ments that look ar­chi­tec­tural, such as in his draw­ing The Ma­tri­arch’s Room. His sense of com­po­si­tion also stands out from one body of work to the next. Even his most spon­ta­neous, ab­stract draw­ings have bal­ance and har­mony. He seems also to have a good in­tu­ition of when to stop and, con­se­quently, his draw­ings are rarely busy. In­stead, they are eco­nom­i­cal, re­tain­ing a co­he­sive­ness de­spite some­times be­ing com­posed of hun­dreds of sep­a­rate lit­tle marks. “Cruz’s work is just re­ally fun,” said Os­tran­der, “be­cause it is a very un­cen­sored, un­in­flu­enced vision.”

Cruz Salazar: The Crea­ture of Green, 2014, ink on water­color pa­per; above, The Ma­tri­arch’s Room, 2016, In­dia ink on water­color pa­per; op­po­site, Three Hole Point, 2015, In­dia ink on water­color pa­per

The Spi­ral Wanderer, 2014, In­dia ink on water­color pa­per

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