Art Review of Gabriel Diego Delgado and Louie Chavez at LoneStar Studios and Gallery
Post Pop Politics
by Gabriel Diego Delgado
-San Antonio, TX. The art exhibition of Louie Chavez and Gabriel Diego Delgado at LoneStar Studios in the LoneStar Arts District is a juxtaposition of Middle Eastern inspired pattern within seemingly random animal drawings mixed with a post Neo-Pop, teenybopper, larger than life, Pop Art periodical covers.
Curated by Sean FitzGibbons, this seemingly saucy (2 person) one-man exhibitions opened on September 10, amidst the backdrop of the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. Half political ploy and half kitschy pop punk aesthetic, LoneStar plays it cool while subtly laying artistic groundwork for a perverted prelude to a callously hip ethnocentric and passively patriot celebration. This exhibition is a copious attempt to marry two distinct artists in a San Antonio Post-Pop Political Party.
Louie Chavez, a Laredo born artist, now calls San Antonio home. This artist’s extrovert personality is reflective in his 1980’s and 90’s Photoshop throwbacks. On a mission to preserve the heyday of 80’s nostalgia, Chavez captures the partying essence of that decade. An unending spread of cheap pop culture icons, Chavez takes the viewer into his world of childhood treachery. Like a plastered teenager’s wall of rock posters and TV heartthrobs, the familiar faces of these once famous has-beens are mimicked with the always present artist self-portrait. Whether he is wearing 1980’s black fingerless leather gloves or a variety of 20 years old Top Gun sunglasses, Louie Chavez’s deliberate decision to insert himself into his own artworks shows his comical and contemporary consideration for self-identity.
Playing the part of party host, Chavez often lingers to the side, like some Circus ringmaster, poised to spring forth and invite you into his artistic merrymaking. With Hollywood icons like Ralph Macchio in “Egoboost #5”, and Vanilla Ice in “Egoboost #1”, these digitally collaged alternative magazine covers are bursting with sentimentally exultant times for any 30 something art appreciator. The underlying aspects of such cleverness are palpable in the selection of recognizable imagery. Does Chavez have a closet full of 80’s and 90’s Bop magazines or does he scour the internet looking for such brilliantly belligerent booty?
After a careful selection of such MTV eye candy, Chavez paints into his productions. Pop Icons become malicious zombies in a traverse manifestation of meaning, while once welcoming Superstars become horrific and heinous heroes and heroines. Intermingled with the “Pop-alyptic” posters are rendered cutouts, or what can be seen as deviously diverting decals. More Dr. Seuss than fine art nuggets, these seemingly irrelevant images guides the viewer through an acid trip of heartthrob hell. Skulls, fruits, and simple icons, are neither stretched nor paneled, but exist as installation items. Place-able anywhere the artist selects, the tattoo flash-like qualities of the “cut-outs” insert a fresh approach to the curatorial installment. Creating a seamless approach to a gallery’s feature wall, the illustrative accents add a certain boyish charm that only alludes to Chavez’s youthful demeanor.
With three distinct bodies of work Delgado manages to corral ideas, notions, and merit with highly detailed political drawings mingled with animal rendering reminiscent of the old masters. Selections of pattern and ornamental illustrations adorn the unabashed subjects. Ranging from Celtic to Middle Eastern to Art Deco, Delgado’s hodgepodge of references confuses the viewer on meaning but delivers a very eloquent and unique artistic portrayal of beauty.
“Dog Family”, a closely knit grouping of dachshunds, consists of a fine toothed line drawing of the canines; while the coats are accentuated with an eclectic set of design patterns. Choosing careful arrangement of pattern locations, Delgado selects to emphasize legs, necks and chest sections with such aesthetic configurations. On the other hand, intentional is his play on contemporary political imagery cross-referenced with the likes of the Iraqi War, Weapons, Colonialism and Famine. Starved African children exist under the sinister eyes of vultures ready to devour any death shrouds in “African Children’s Army #3”, while a Karma Sutra sexually promiscuous image is back dropped by the American flag surrounded by oil paraphernalia in “ My love hate relationship with Oil”. The lone diptych, “You Can’t Ignore Me, Colonialism” illustrates the story of a young African boy caught up in a civil war, longing for the attention of another older female in the accompanying panel. This girl, in the next section is surrounded by icons of Catholicism and Puritan Colonialism- mocking his cries.
Great care and diligent craftsmanship is evident in Delgado’s mastery of pen and ink decoration. His reference to Afghani War rugs can be seen in his insertion of pink AK 47’s as an artistic overlay into a complex pattern sprinkled across the full two paneled art piece.
The showcase of the exhibition, a hand-painted recycled SeaWorld billboard, measuring over 10 ft. high by 20 ft. long, lays claim to the audience’s first impressions. Although the size of “Rise Up” does something to the overall psyche of the viewer, the implications of arrangement and message overpower the pure aesthetics of the artwork. Delgado, having explored large billboard paintings in the past; with 7 of them on display at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) D.C. in 2001 has taken what he has learned over a decade of Political inquisitiveness and forged ahead unnerved by the contemporary COINTELPRO of blacklisted artists.
Although loosely affiliated images and concepts of Pop culture is unmistakable in Chavez’s work; Delgado plays a more subtle note of Politic as Pop, changing the tone for this exhibition to be more about an individual’s notion of what constitutes Popular Culture in today’s instant information web-based existence—Reality Shows or News Shows?