Yautepec is pleased to announce Roses on Your Grave by Chicago-based artist Morgan Mandalay, the second presentation of the artist's work at Yautepec but his first individual exhibition with the gallery. It will be on view until May 11th, 2013.
Mandalay's often collage-like paintings explore the intertwining nature of memories and free association, generating unexpected collisions between figures, objects, environments, artistic styles, and moments in time. Each painting is the result of a series of convoluted conjectures, often forcing high and low influences into a bizarre coexistence, but a compellingly poetic one.
In Lost in The Vastness of The Open Ocean, for example, Mandalay re-imagines Frank Stella's iconic De La Nada Vida a La Nada Muerte series in the language of a "Sunday painting" of the sea at night. Its rolling black waves are given a nearly uniform, highly-stylized treatment, creating the Stella-esque perception of form and movement on the flat canvas. The painting approaches complete abstraction until the final few centimeters at the top reveal the purple, starry horizon above.
In Snowblind, we find instead a painting of a wintry landscape, based directly on a Bob Ross painting that Mandalay encountered among the first results of a google image search for the term "landscape," but then subjected to various imaginary re-authorships. In this case, Mandalay hobbyist painter dutifully follows Bob Ross' instructions and finishes a beautiful landscape painting. Flash forward a few months and perhaps Martha Stuart inspires said painter to use holiday party decorations as stencils to turn that boring old landscape into a seasonally-appropriate winter snow scene. Finally, the art student son or daughter returns home from school for winter break and, out of pure boredom, decides to give the painting a David Hockney twist and adds some snow by applying thick oil marks in the foreground.
Another painting, The Apparition, begins with a highly specific reference: Vicente López y Portaña's 1832 portrait of Dona Gertrudis de Compte y de Bruga. López y Portaña was Goya's successor as the Royal Court Painter in Spain, though never as highly regarded as Goya. Mandalay decided to reinterpret how he imagined Goya might have reinterpreted that particular painting himself as one of his late "black" paintings. In Mandalay's version, he focuses on the element of spatial collapse that was common to Goya's black paintings, employing a collage technique to create apparent layers of background and foreground in just a single layer. The Dona Gertrudis is rendered over that as a semi-transparent ghostly figure, the features of her serene face defined solely by the textured strokes of the thick black oil paint and the starkly contrasting red of her lips.
In each of the works in Roses on Your Grave, these disparate techniques, influences, and imagined scenarios work together to construct a single, often ultimately confounding narrative, somehow both sardonic and sincere at the same time. In that way, one could argue that the power of these paintings lies in their ability to pull the viewer into their apparent riddle even as the author still struggles to solve it himself.