Peter Van Dyck,
Peter Van Dyck, "Studio Interior Bike Workshop," oil on board, 32 x 26 in.

Contemporary Art Exhibition: Atravesando El Ojo (Through the Eye)
Through November 30th, 2023
Venue: Figure | Ground Art Gallery, Seattle, Washington
Curators: Jen Dale, Brett Holverstott, Nacho Vergara

By Jen Dale
Painter, curator, and art historian

Often hailed as “the greatest realist artist alive,” the impact that master painter Antonio López García has had on realist contemporary art is undeniable. Beneath the man’s mild-mannered warmth and humble charm, exists a real tour-de-force. Artists all over the world have sensed it in his work.

Figurative art
Carmen Mansilla, “Trace,” 2023, oil on linen, 74 x 46 cm

The international group exhibition “Atravesando El Ojo (Through the Eye)” at the Figure Ground Art Gallery traces López’s aesthetic influence on artists in both Spain and the US, many of whom have studied with the master. While the artists in this show have been intensely impacted by his way of seeing, each has taken what they learned from López and applied their own eye to create a vision uniquely their own.

On display is work by Jorge Abbad (Spain), Rocío Cano (Spain), Larine Chung (USA), Adam Cohn (UK/Israel), Irene Cuadrado (Spain), Dean Fisher (USA), Zoey Frank (USA), Christopher Gallego (USA), Paco LaFarga (Spain), Carmen Mansilla (Spain), Eduardo Millán Sañudo (Spain), Josephine Sheridan Robinson (USA), Peter Van Dyck (USA), and Nacho Vergara (Spain).

Christopher Gallego, "Ceiling Pipes," 2012, oil on canvas, 15 x 24 in.
Christopher Gallego, “Ceiling Pipes,” 2012, oil on canvas, 15 x 24 in.

At age 87, López has influenced many over his long career. In the 80’s he was picked up by the Marlborough Gallery in NYC, and that’s when American artists started learning about his work. Artist Christopher Gallego saw López’s work for the first time as a student in the 90’s and it made a big impact on him. He saw that López was doing the same thing he was trying to do. Gallego states, “Seeing López’s work gave me the freedom and confidence to paint anything. López paints unexpected things, which become beautiful, and he is passionate about it.” It validated his own work.

Contemporary art painting of a cat
Paco LaFarga, “Cat,” oil on board

Artist Paco LaFarga states it poetically when he says, “I was struck by his way of representing something in a very real way that had nothing to do with a hyper-realistic or photographic conception, something very deep, that moves and scratches you inside, that leaves a feeling of loneliness, of beautiful emptiness.”

The theme of “an intense level of observation” was common when speaking to artists participating in the exhibition Atravesando El Ojo. Artist Peter Van Dyck is struck by what seems to be lenses of analysis and observation in López’s work, mapped on top of one another. He explains that López paints space in a 3D manner, through the lenses of structure and light, as opposed to what many artists do, which is simply to paint the photographic 2D of what our eye sees, or the ‘skin’ of the material world. When you start to observe without the photographic logic/skin, objects form from the center like a flower blooming, and you get a more profound sense of the characteristics of the object. “This allows for the poetic reconstruction of the world. That’s what painting is for.”

Contemporary art still life painting of peppers
Eduardo Sañudo Millan, “Green and Red Chiles,” oil on linen, 34 x 45 cm

Van Dyck goes on to say that “López can turn his gaze on anything and redeem its banality.” Although he has never studied with López, from him Van Dyck learned to be ruthless with the 2D surface. Like a poet, he seeks to phrase the shapes on the picture plane, compelling them, which illuminates his perception of the world to reveal more. He uses observation as the line of inquiry, as the springboard for poetics. He feels that finding the answers is not important, but rather, the ruthlessness, the rigor of investigation is the end in itself.

Contemporary art still life
Contemporary art still life > Dean Fisher, “Still Life on Colored Paper,” oil on paper, 24 x 36 in.

Irene Cuadrado talks about how her work has evolved since studying with López: “Over time the color has lost its exact shape and value to create larger spots, open and less subject to the reality of what is observed. However, the narrative is still in the foundations of telling my inner world through the eyes of what is close.”

Graphite drawing of a child
Jorge Abbad, Untitled, 2023, graphite on paper

Each of the artists in the exhibition has taken what they have learned from López and applied their own eyes. They learned to trust their own senses. Carmen Mansilla notes “From being in a workshop with him I take away a feeling of wanting to paint better, to be honest with myself and have sincerity in the work.”

By looking through the eye, these artists not only reflect their own truths but also invite viewers to explore their own emotions and perspectives. In a world often saturated with pretense and artifice, honesty in art serves as a refreshing reminder of our shared humanity.

This has been condensed from a longer article found here.

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