Artist treads fine line between the surreal and sacrilegious
Living in the world, we constantly make adjustments and accommodations to a sense of context based on our histories, our knowledge and experience. Everything we observe or undergo must fit into what is familiar to us from the past in order that we may keep our bearings in the present and profit from or not be harmed by new exposure.
That principle also applies to looking at art, a process that entails framing our experiences with what we know from the history of styles, materials and techniques and our acquaintance (or lack thereof) with the artist.
Encountering recent watercolors and acrylic paintings by Juan Rojo at Jay Etkin Gallery, on display through Aug. 30, I was consistently thrown off-base by the myriad references, inferences and ghostlike emanations that inhabit this artist’s works, and I’m not unaccustomed to his methods and concerns. Threads of the ceremonial and ritualistic run through these pieces, as well as notes of the perverse and the sinister married to the benign and the highly decorative. One series of watercolors titled “Masquerade” seems to explain a great deal about Rojo’s approach; it’s all contemporary play and baroque theatricality, rich with disguise and costume bent by a slightly warped and wicked Catholic temper.
Take the large painting “Annunciation.” The subject — the announcement to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she will bear God’s child — was of utmost importance during the late Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque period. Rojo’s version, however, takes the form of a tradition pieta, the well-known motif in which the Virgin Mary holds the body of the crucified At Jay Etkin Gallery through August 30 942 South Cooper Call 901-550-0064 or visit jayetkingallery.com