Saturday, December 1st, 2001

Roberto Juarez

Robert Miller
526 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10022
November 14 – December 22, 2001

The work of Roberto Jaurez contains nothing that is extraneous to the art of painting. It bristles with a combination of glowing depths and fresh, imaginative line. A super abundance of beaded spirals, wavy triangles and rectangles (sometimes flat sometimes three dimensional), beehive-like clusters of hexagons, gelatinous pods, and wild circles can barely contain itself. Transparent and opaque structures wrestle within the void.

Roberto Jaurez New Branch 2000 Mixed media, 78 x 78 inches courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York
Roberto Jaurez, New Branch 2000 Mixed media, 78 x 78 inches courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York

Not unlike de Kooning, Juarez jabs at surfaces and muscles the brush around. Both artists have created brilliant but very different palimpsests. We also find traces of the pinks and greens de Kooning used in his work from the 1960s.

Jaurez’s mixed media works on canvas are explorations of the processes of drawing and looking. They are spontaneous and full of discovery, the way blind contour drawings are. He successfully creates a complex relationship between foreground and background, and is not interested in rendering specific objects. Mondrian created an orderly urban tomorrow. Juarez has given us his interpretation of the chaos of contemporary life in the city. There are the faintest traces of recognizable objects, but patterning and limber brushwork prevail. Geometric forms, triangles, circles and rectangles, dominate many of the compositions, but they are not hard edged. In fact many of the paintings are beautiful, aqueous messes or rhythmical linear entanglements. Bryant Park Tiles, 2001, is a busy surface built of drab olive greens, pungent crimsons and impure whites, highlighted by pale yellow ochre and light tan. This chaotic mass of rectangular forms and violent scribbles consists of a red orange background, a grid-like tile pattern, with white-ish green slash marks floating on top of it.

Viewing the mixed media freestanding works done on hinged panels (the screens) is an awkward affair. It is difficult to determine how to read the separate sides. Should one side be looked at before the other? Is there a meaningful relationship between the two? I found myself trying to remember what the side I could no longer see looked like. Traces of architecture, giant archways and cross beams at odd angles, appear in Humo One and Humo Two. Blue Structure, 2001, contains an exquisite symphony of squares to make Hans Hofmann jealous from beyond the grave. Both sides of Coin Circle, 2001, my favorite panel piece, are tributes to geometric forms; hexagons and triangles. The patterning is intuitive and the possible interpretations of the work are limitless. In the paintings Kether Place, 2001, and Circulation, 2001, there is a perfect balance between randomness and pattern. The monotypes (Nubes Uno, Dos and Tres) are made up of overlapping pale colored circles. The overlapping circles are like reptilian scales seen through a magnifying glass. Unfortunately the colors in the monotypes are wan.

In the mixed media works one can see hints of scaffolding, ladders, fire-escapes, honeycombs, the embossed patterns on sewer caps, rows of windows. Faint charcoal drawing is everywhere, and is discernible if one looks hard enough. Drips of pigment are sporadically placed. Juarez uses geometric forms as a starting point and they become the overarching theme. They also temper the expressionist brushwork. Each piece in this show is filled with an abundance of ambiguous shapes. The sketchy quality of the work only strengthens it. I sat Indian style on the floor of the gallery staring at several of these paintings for over an hour. I never grew bored and I appreciated different aspects of the compositions as I scanned and rescanned them. I was overwhelmed by the richness and vibrancy of Juarez’s optical imagination.