A huge vulture, wings outstretched. Corpses laid out like mummies. Flames erupting from a human torso. A giant airplane, aloft, nose tilted downward. Amidst these unsettling images, cartoon figures peer in the background. These vibrant images and many more seem to explode from their canvases in Demián Flores exhibit “Pinturas Plegables,” (Foldable Paintings), now showing in the Art Division gallery.
According to Flores’ statement, the five paintings in the exhibit are his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which “forced humanity to reinvent the ways of life in society and the relationship between individuals,” causing us to have found “new forms of socialization and dialogue with the viewer through the screen of the computer or cell phone.” The works, which mingle images from history, politics, pop culture and fine art, are unframed on canvas that resembles a dropcloth, giving them a feeling of having been improvised and then carried away quickly.
Flores, one of Mexico’s most important artists, has long experimented with mixing formal and informal elements. When Art Division Artistic Director Dan McCleary first encountered Flores’ work in 2006 at the USC Fisher Museum of Art, he was startled to see a row of baseball bats carved into elaborate, enigmatic shapes. “I knocked on the museum director’s door and said ‘who is this guy?’” Dan said. The director, Selma Holo, soon introduced Dan and Flores. A meeting at the museum turned into dinner, which turned into an invitation for Dan to visit Flores in Oaxaca. The friendship has continued to this day.
Flores’ work has been an ongoing source of inspiration to Dan, spanning many disciplines including painting, graphic arts, drawing, video and sculpture. The Curtiduría, a cultural and community space Flores established in Oaxaca, was one of Dan’s inspirations when he founded Art Division. “I believe he’s one of the most important artists in Mexico,” Dan said. “He’s got such a touch.”
Victor Reyes, the gallery’s Assistant Manager, finds the paintings create an emotional connection. He appreciates the way the work speaks to everyday life in Mexico. “You see violence but in the background there’s something positive and childlike,” Reyes said. “The strokes are violent, the colors are violent, but at the same time it’s really vibrant.”
“Pinturas Plegables” will be on display in the Art Division gallery from November 12, 2022 to January 7, 2023. To visit the gallery, please contact Dan (firstname.lastname@example.org).