The terrible and the beautiful, Lugo and Tomezsko’s ‘Wynorrific Times’ at Wexler Gallery
Natalie Sandstrom visits Wexler Gallery to review a collaborative exhibition featuring new works by artists Roberto Lugo and Mat Tomezsko. Read further to learn how to two creatives balance “porcelain and hip hop” with “coupons and asphalt” to explore current views on society. ‘Wynorrific Times’ runs through January 25, 2020 at Wexler Gallery, located at 201 N. 3rd Street in the Old City section of Philadelphia.

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Wynorrific Times, Roberto Lugo and Mat Tomezsko, Wexler Gallery. Photo courtesy Natalie Sandstrom.
Wynorrific Times, Roberto Lugo and Mat Tomezsko, Wexler Gallery. Photo courtesy Natalie Sandstrom.

Wynorrific Times, at Wexler Gallery, is a colorful extravaganza by artists Roberto Lugo and Mat Tomezsko. It should come as no surprise that the works on view complement each other in color, texture, and mood, given that the artists have collaborated on various projects since 2013. Crossover is a theme that runs throughout the show: between the artists, their communities, and various art historical periods and genres. This flexibility creates a dynamism throughout the gallery that adds depth to works that are, at first glance, decorative objects.

Tomezsko’s work is made of newsprint and weekly ads, asphalt, coal, and acrylic, layered on the substrate in geometric forms, often taking on “X”-like shapes across the canvas. These works, such as “Price” (2019), speak to a forgottenness–a newspaper insert flitting across the street–and also our daily consumerism. These collages repurpose opposite materials–hard and soft, color and darkness–to create a vibrancy that rests within the tension. The works are whimsical, and in a way are cleverly self-conscious: the artist has taken ads and coupons and turned them into art that sells for thousands of dollars.

There is a mortality to the works as well. A pair of works–Tomezsko’s “The Hours” (2019) and Lugo’s “Column Composition” (2019)–draw your attention from the time you walk into the door. Lugo’s columns sparkle, but have been smashed and clumsily put back together. They lay haphazardly, refusing to be defeated, though certainly looking weary. They are small, but seem dense–appearing immobile except that their cracks show a previous, forceful displacement. Above the columns hangs “The Hours,” a splattery work that echoes an hourglass shape, though features no sand slipping through. The pair of works reminds me of Shelley’s Romantic poem “Ozymandias”–a tale of a once-noble statue of a king. I found the combination to have a fierceness, an energy, that separates it from the rest of the gallery, giving this area a particular heady magnetism.

Wynorrific Times, Roberto Lugo and Mat Tomezsko, Wexler Gallery. Photo courtesy Natalie Sandstrom.
Wynorrific Times, Roberto Lugo and Mat Tomezsko, Wexler Gallery. Photo courtesy Natalie Sandstrom.

Nearby this brilliant pairing was another standout work: Tomezsko’s “Free Paint Composition 8/3/19.” Tomezsko made this collage from strips of paintings done by community members on the August Free Paint Day outside the Barnes Foundation, here in Philadelphia. The extended label for this object lists the names of each of the Free Paint participants from the day – people who were essential in the creation of this work, and whose spirit can be felt in the convergence of the strips. The lines intersect at the center of the panel, lines and colors intermingling in a joyful exchange, certainly echoing how the Free Paint participants must have interacted in August, and how the artist felt turning their work into something new. A similar energy can be felt in Lugo’s “Deconstructed Jordan Bowl (I)” (2019). This small object features a plethora of colors and patterns coexisting on the carefully shaped dish. The work has an earthiness about it–it seems almost molten, with its odd shape and shiny glaze. Lugo, in crafting this object, becomes a fire-bending god – a mighty partner to Tomezsco’s similarly mythical blending.

Throughout this smorgasbord lies Lugo’s porcelain vessels, which combine European and Asian influence, plus contemporary icons like rapper Biggie Smalls. This cross-cultural, cross-media, and cross-temporal mashup creates a transitive space. Lugo repositions transnational luxury goods through the lens of contemporary cultural and monetary capital. These works pose questions of representation, and of how to measure worth across space and time. Luckily, porcelain is a notoriously tough material, and the works hold up to the weight of the imagery that rests upon them. In conversation with the other works on view at Wexler, these objects have a liveliness to them that gives a physical embodiment to the personalities that can be felt elsewhere in the artworks.

Cumulatively, the exhibition is a meditation on exchange and repositioning: painting-turned collage; coupons turned cash; rappers turned emperors; human turned deity. The artists clearly each have a distinctive style, but their work aligns so seamlessly that a new viewer may consider the show that of a single mind. Like the flow between “The Hours” and “Column Composition,” or the intersection point within Tomezsko’s X-focal works, these artists leverage difference into connection, and do so in a way that feels celebratory and approachable. We all could use a little more of that.

Wynorrific Times: Roberto Lugo and Mat Tomezsko, Wexler Gallery, October 4,2019 – January 5, 2020

Wynorrific Times, Roberto Lugo and Mat Tomezsko, Wexler Gallery. Photo courtesy Natalie Sandstrom.
Wynorrific Times, Roberto Lugo and Mat Tomezsko, Wexler Gallery. Photo courtesy Natalie Sandstrom.
Tags

art, artists, clay, colorful, mat tomezsko, paint, painting, philadelphia, pottery, roberto lugo, wexler gallery, wynorrific

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