By Juan Barquin
By Ciara LaVelle
By George Martinez
By Kat Bein
By Ciara LaVelle
By Travis Cohen
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Monica McGivern
Pancho Luna is no stranger to yanking perfection from the jaws of chaos. The artist often tinkers on multiple series of works at the same time, allowing his cranial crankshaft to intuitively fire the connective rods linking disparate elements of his art.
"I am very restless," the 51-year-old Argentine says. "I usually work on three pieces of art at a time. I have a concept for my works in progress, but sometimes I have to stop because another idea crops up and becomes another dimension I want to pursue.
"Even though sometimes I might seem disorganized or chaotic, I am also a perfectionist."
The result of his cerebral shenanigans is on display in "Bazaar" at Dot Fiftyone Gallery, where Luna's pristine installations and pieces combine to reveal a witty and inventive mind.
Luna explains his show came with short notice — he had four months to prepare — so rather than developing a body of work for the exhibit, he presented a mishmash of his most recent pieces, hence the title of the show.
"A bazaar implies many different things," Luna says. "I was initially concerned that the works might not jell conceptually, but I'm happy how they came together in the end."
Any of the series on exhibit would make a powerful statement if presented alone. Together they unveil elegant and innovative constructions brimming with a reservoir of personal meaning in a jolting way.
At first blush, two large sunflower-yellow works add a burst of brightness to a wall. From a distance, they appear to be a pair of abstract, almost geometric paintings. As one approaches them, they reflect the viewer's image off of their sleek, glossy surfaces.
Close up, one notices they are covered with subtle German, English, Hebrew, and Arabic texts. The mixed-media-on-canvas works are part of Luna's CD Series, in which the artist creates fictitious CD covers with differing themes.
"This one is titled Love Songs or Songs Against the War," Luna says. "It has an anti-conflict thematic that confronts you all of a sudden with the notion of protest music in an unexpected way."
On the floor directly across from it sits a work that also conveys a sense of troubled relationships that most viewers can relate to in a personal way: Bazaar is a jumble of smashed crockery and white bone china, with several shards covered in the image of the artist's home. It is reminiscent of how the dinner table is an oasis for couples to communicate over a meal, dream of the future, or even hammer out wrinkles in strained relationships.
It also brings to mind the rupture and pain of separation. The entire work is covered in layers of epoxy resin that hint at secrets or unspoken laments frozen within. Although it is as pristinely executed as the rest of Luna's works on display, and almost pure white in color, the piece is far from frigid and symbolizes conflict and tension in an emotionally charged way.
In what might be considered a companion piece, Discusiones (Discussions), Luna adds twisted sign letters, bristling screws, and a pulverized cell phone to his shattered dinner plates.
The freighted collage, as thick as a shoe box, juts out from a wall and seems encrusted with the detritus of soul-withering heartbreak.
"I use a product that's almost like liquid glass to harden my surfaces," Luna says. "It allows me to create these many layers that add shadow and depth. In between applications, I can add transparencies, paint, and include other elements that become sealed in these very glossy surfaces that reflect everything back."
In another series that captures attention, Luna works with fictitious book spines. He creates his own titles and then collages them to create rectangular pieces that look like shelves full of books.
Libros (Books) features titles such as Music for the Painter, Don't Leave, Wooden Heart, and The Five Paradises. He has arranged the spines of his bogus tomes, which are autobiographical in nature, in varying tones and widths.
"I love looking at books in libraries and their textures and colors on the shelves. Five Paradises is a reference to me and my brothers. In Argentina, there is a tree called paraíso (paradise), and my father planted one in the yard following the birth of each of his five sons. Whenever I visit home, I still clear their branches and tend to them."
In the center of the gallery, an arresting piece titled Chandelier cascades from the roof like a glimmering waterfall. The piece is impeccably crafted from 40 plastic page-size magnifying sheets that gently sway to one's breath, refracting light gracefully throughout the space.
Hidden within the translucent mass is an image of shattered crockery and text that's almost hard to decipher as one circumnavigates the rhythmic lamp. Luna seems to be playing with the unseen as a way to unmoor meaning from what might be better left unsaid.
He also employs word games in a work titled Scrabble Essay B (Discusión). In it, Luna has created huge individual lettered tiles based on the popular board game. He arranges the tiles to form the word discussion in Spanish, with opposing tiles spelling out the words yes and no, suggesting tension between opposing points of view.
Perhaps the strongest argument that some of the works on exhibit merit pride of place on their own is Galones de Luz (Gallons of Light), wrapped around the corner of two gallery walls.
The sensational example of green-stamp-budget design is created from dozens of empty gallon water jugs Luna consumed while working in his studio. He fashioned the containers into glowing lamps by placing light filaments inside.
They are arranged on the walls at intermittent heights and look like incandescent IV drips or giant luminous sperm blazing toward the sky. The installation's black cables are knotted on the floor like snaking tree roots or fallen power lines, enhancing the work's gritty, industrial vibe.
Sometimes, to meet the bottom line, a dealer gets in the way of an artist. At Dot Fiftyone, it is obvious that despite those hurdles, Luna has an endless bag of tricks to bank on.