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Weekly Update — Skeleton love at Proximity Gallery


This week’s Weekly has my review of Dia De Los Muertos at Proximity Gallery.  Below is my copy with pictures.

Dia de los Muertos at Proximity Gallery is one of those rare art world animals — a show without conceptual bullying or delusions of grandeur.  Instead, the exhibit of 43 works by members of the illustrator’s collective, the Autumn Society, is a parade of optical pleasures and a celebration of skeletons and Day of the Dead mythology.

Drew Falchetta's Day of the Dead "Game Over" giclee print at Proximity Gallery.
Jude Buffum’s Day of the Dead “Game Over” giclee print at Proximity Gallery.

The works all have a frisson of the outlaw in them:  You’re never far from Hells Angels and tattoo-land.  What is surprising is how diverse the portrayals are, and, in some cases, how loving.  Some of the more idiosyncratic works are either homages to dead relatives or to long lost cultures or heart-felt meditations on death.

The fashionista in Drew Falchetta’s watercolor, “La Catrina,” for example, evokes a skeleton diva — stylish hair, makeup, a boa and hat.  But the image is so individualized that it suggests not a generic “type” but perhaps someone known by the artist.

Jay Bevenour's mixed media drawing with Uncle Mike looking over the artist's shoulder.
Jay Bevenour’s mixed media drawing with Uncle Mike looking over the artist’s shoulder.

Jay Bevenour’s “La Colaboracion,” a red-tinted ink and digital drawing, in fact, commemorates the artist’s late uncle Mike who was his mentor, says Bevenour on the Society’s website.  The piece is a self-portrait showing the artist at work, his hand guided by the hand of a large decorated skeleton who leans over his shoulder, a lit cigarette in his other boney hand.  The artist concentrates on his work but Uncle Mike looks directly at the viewer as if to say, Yes, why not?  And in fact, the piece reverberates, since we all, at one time or another, imagine a once-loved and now-gone relative or friend hovering nearby.

Jeff Kilpatrick, Proximidad de Usted.
Jeff Kilpatrick, Proximidad de Usted.

Jeff Kilpatrick’s “Proximidad De Usted,” an ink, marker and pencil creation, shows two lovers embracing in a Mexican plaza near a church.  Their robust-looking bodies, fashionable clothes and the woman’s long black hair cascading down her back are great foils for the lovers’ dead white skulls and the woman’s bony arm embracing her man.  It’s a great graphic image and highly romantic, and was inspired, the artist says, by the 1938 Hoagy Carmichael song The Nearness of You.

The most surprising image in the show is Jude Buffum’s giclee print on canvas, “Juego Terminado,” a pixillated and psychedelic skull as a video “game over” screen.   The comment on video games that focus on killing but never envision the afterlife is wry and unexpected.

Edwin Vazquez, Egghead Codex Page 6, with Mickey Mouse in Pre-Columbian hieroglyph.

All the works are small — in the neighborhood of 12×15″ — and most are affordable. Edwin Vazquez’ “Egghead Codex (Page 6)” — which inserts Mickey Mouse into a pretend-Pre-Columbian hieroglyph — is a visionary mash-up that honors the artist’s ancestors while knocking upside the head one of today’s major corporate symbols.

El Toro's Liberty Bell-enhanced skeleton with references to Lady of Guadalupe religious images.
El Toro’s Liberty Bell-enhanced skeleton with references to Lady of Guadalupe religious images.

And El Toro (Justin Nagtalon)’s piece — a fine-line drawing burned into a wood panel showing a sugar-skull monster whose torso is a cracked Liberty Bell — stands out for its materials and funny Philadelphia reference, and at $150, it is the steal of the show.

Dia De Los Muertos, to Oct. 31. Proximity Gallery, 2434 East Dauphin St. 267.825.2949