Thursday, May 7, 2009

"there was a silent tinfoil rapping against the front door"

by Sun Smith-Fôret

"there was a silent tinfoil rapping against the front door," paintings by Christopher Rubin de la Borbolla
Bruno David Gallery, St. Louis, MO
April 10-May 12, 2009

With no obvious fixed visual or conceptual goals, Christopher de la Borbolla's new paintings meander through diverse emotional landscapes. Ideas are layered, integrated through technically mature play with digital preparation followed by applications of oil, enamel, rustoleum, stains, sharpie marker, charcoal, smoked cigatette butts, tiny rubber babies in plastic packs. Sometimes the surfaces reveal a man in a love/hate relationship with his materials, like Jimi Hendrix fighting his instrument. Stenciled numbers, blow-ups of digitized photos, phrases from instruction manuals, poetry blips, city names, city maps, silhouettes, solids and see-through figures drift across the canvases. Figurative studies merge portraiture with landscapes, offering clues to interior aspects of the artist's persona. His works are mysterious, romantic, curious, observing.

In a masterly media melange the paintings declare kinship to printmaking, photography, and textile surface design techniques, as well as to the assertive abstractions of de Kooning and Pollock and raw expressive narrative of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The flagrantly political Your Distant Means of Making War is a skillfully corner-mounted diptych painting and supporting floor installation referencing current and continuing Middle Eastern conflicts. Viewed from a distance, the gesso and stained surfaces of the paired paintings convey a meditative aura, slightly pallid and sorrowful, a desert out of bloom. Up close in a grit-abraded surface, figures emerge that could suggest brothers in arms in Iraq, Arab hostages, human targets, Che Guevara martyr figures.

The artist was trained in Art at Northwestern University (BFA), where he also received an BA in Applied Math. As a child he drew, played with Lincoln Logs and erector sets. His grandmother was a Ph.D. in Philology and imparted a love and respect for words. In the works shown at Bruno David Gallery, de la Borbolla filters and reconstructs narrative line as he de-constructs and rebuilds subjective and material/tactile experience. We are drawn into the familiar and the strange, the immediate and the misty, the deliberate and the obscure. As in Basquiat's painterly bravado of scrawl, scribble and scratch, the narrative line is hidden in plain sight.

Chris de la Borbolla plays his elements like music counterpointing the painfully personal against art historical and popular culture matrices where the layering becomes a virtual 3-d happening. The work scores on cerebral and textual and textural planes. There is nothing plain about it.

Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Blvd. 314/531-3030.
Gallery hours: Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., first Sunday of every month 12-5 p.m. and by appointment.

Sun Smith-Fôret is a practicing psychotherapist in St. Louis and a regional artist. Her mixed media textiles, drawings and paintings on the topic of movies have been presented in numerous exhibitions, including her recent solo exhibit, "Interpretation: Silver Screen Quilts by Sun Smith-Foret," Belger Arts Center, Kansas City, MO (July 4- October 3, 2008). Her work was also recently presented in a show with St. Louis textile artists Marjorie Hoeltzel and Dawn Ottensmeier in "Charms and Talismans," Chesterfield Arts, Chesterfield, MO (October 24, 2008-January 3, 2009). In addition to her art making, Sun serves on the Art Saint Louis Board of Directors.