Process, Perspective and Perception
A painterly abstract interpretation of “architectural” design and “artistic” linear exploration
Gabriel Diego Delgado
San Antonio, TX. - James Raska and Louis Vega Trevino was the dual artist tag team on exhibition at the Radius Center, located on San Antonio’s Auditorium Circle; an exhibit loosely curated by Joan Grona of the renowned Joan Grona Gallery. Housed in a historic building in downtown San Antonio, the Radius is a multi-purpose space with functions ranging from art exhibitions, music, food, and performance; while housing several nonprofit headquarters.
Respected artists in their own right, Raska and Trevino team up to deliver a power house showing; a sucker-punch of artistic superiority. Exploring congruent linear qualities, hard edge abstraction, investigations in artistic insight, and creative subtleness; each artist holds true to a deliberate and aesthetic decision on a wide variety of process.
Consisting of 16 works of art, the exhibition favors Louis Vega Trevino with 10 painting, while James Raska attempts to clutch and sustain an artistic foothold with 6 new works ranging in style from early Minimalism to Conceptual. We see both artists breaking away from signature “styles”, and gaining new ground within a tranquil artistic progression; a personal development toward a refined look- experiencing growing pains along the way.
Along the right side of the multi-use space acting as the showcased wall, each artist has staked claim to the real-estate that best displays their efforts. With the curatorial directive of the exhibition starting with Trevino and his traditional stripe paintings, each visual cue is now grouped together to form geometric clusters. The viewer finds themselves shuffled along a hurried hue highway, resting at a middle ground of three Raska paintings that seem more explorative than graceful. Wrapped around a slight corner and extending to the next wall section, Trevino opens up a new world of painting orientations that catapult him to the high ground. Once known for his large scale stripe paintings, Trevino comes alive with a break from simple geometric alignments from the previous selections and invites the viewer into his world of artistic movement, optical illusion and irregular “Frank Stella-ish” shaped canvases –all making amusingly clever arrangements. Ending the exhibition, Raska lands some homage homeruns with his playful yet laborious minimalism.
Out-maneuvering the novice art appreciator, Raska sinisterly paints in a way that makes complexity look crude. Highly layered, sanded, and varnished art, Raska intuitively paints his creations while subconsciously submerged in the role of deceitful artiste. His moderate to non-existent color palette is only grossly erroneous once one deciphers his visual language spoken with a metaphorical painterly twang of sophistication.
Trevino’s showcase pieces include some of his more conservative combinations while making strides with his newly discovered flair for piece positioning. A more conventional but truly successful creation is the artwork titled listening-consisting of four distinct rectangular canvases all poised vertically. Always aware of his horizontal boarders, side to side pictography, and equally important color theory, Trevino positions these paintings in a very “inoffensive” and familiar alignment. Reading left to right, listening is a great introduction to his recent paint pairing displays; with his paintings acting as components in a larger installation-like environment. However, helmet is fine example of how to introduce one’s clientele to a new beginning. Harvesting his color compositional knowledge to the fullest, helmet embodies, in a very simplistic manner, the avenue in which Trevino is embarking.
Using two rhombus shaped canvases, he stacks one on the other- mimicking a plume or metal crown of a Roman warrior’s head gear. Choosing a distinct color limitation of yellows and greens, helmet’s linear qualities emanate a copper radiance; grounded by the earthy greens which are intermittently interrupted by seemingly reflective but buttery ochre. Arriving at vectors seems no small task for Trevino, but is a highly acclaimed prize on the artistic journey. Taking more freedom in pictorial placement, vectors is made up of four rhombus like shaped canvases arranged in a way that is not fluid nor geometric, but teeters on the brink of symbolic. With no one canvas sharing a common axis, each section is angled to a distinct degree; making for matching corners, but obsessively evident is the reference to negative space contemplations. Although the color range is minimal, again revisiting the blue/ green relationship, this only accentuates the distinct shape and designs on the wall-emphasizing the outside edges of the canvas, which create another layer of viewer appreciation.
Although Raska seems to force some the compositional elements within his paintings, some success stories can be written about his never-ending processes that haphazardly create elegant and atmospheric works of art. Line Composition #3 is a prime example of how he is also moving away from a pigeonholed caste. Using one point perspective, with the vanishing point systematically 12” to 18” off the right side of the pictorial plane, a lone horizon line will inevitably intersect two linear elements originating out of the lower left corner- angled upwards toward the top right.
However, upon closer examination, one begins to see repetition in shape, motif, and line; each having complimentary pairs in this particular work of art. Floating black round ball-like shapes are mimicked by ghostly black rings while a hard edge orange rectangle has a partner in the lower right corner-matched with a splintered and sanded woodchip; carefully tendered in order deflect a flaw and make it a purposeful laminate anomaly. The finely rendered horizon line is surrounded by a florescent pink aura, evidence of substrata color field layering. With an easily overlooked and subtle rounding of corners, Raska buffs out the curves with a light sanding, exposing the tree ring-like layers of paint; showing us the final layer is which we view the artwork is only a thin veil hiding the true essence of his work. Be careful not to miss the painted and sanded 1/4” edges of the wood panel, each left and right side having a purposeful contribution.
Line Composition #4 is a true Raska epiphany, here the deliberate decision to cut into the wood panel propels the two dimensional painting into the world of wall relief sculpture. Making two incisions, one on each side and extending into a third of the pictorial space, the cuts act as compositional elements; each paired with a yellow horizontal rectangle. These yellow rectangles are positioned in a way that visually, they respectively rest above and below the black negative aspect of the saw line; each one systematically painted so that the endpoint of the cut mark is even with the halfway measurement of the rectangle. Now comes the curveball, the cuts are flexed by a single screw driven into the back of the painting on the inside cut line, causing a panel protrusion; highlighted by the stark shadows casted down to show depth. A simple but elegant 1960’s reclaim; Raska contemporized a call back to an era of Lucio Fontana’s cut and slashed canvases.
Obsessively purposeful, each element in Raska’s paintings has a tenacity to be part of a greater whole; ranging from brush line marks to almost invisible color difference. You almost have to visually dissect the painting to arrive at an often overlooked minimalism meets conceptual appreciation.
Overall, both painters have shown San Antonio that they are ready to embark on a new artistic journey of lessons learned, challenges met, and new roads ahead; all the while continuing an already established visual legacy within the South Texas Art Community.
© Gabriel Diego Delgado