Wonderland conjures dystopia, fantasy, and artistic ambition
By Jandean Deocampo
Analog: Illustration Alumni Show, City College’s latest art exhibit, showcases the work of both current students and alumni of Art 136.
The show is a dreamscape that weaves together different themes into a narrative full of opposites, parallels and abstractions.
A couple dozen people, including the artists, guests and faculty, gathered Aug. 27 for a reception at the City College Art Gallery on Ocean campus.
“It’s like looking into a fractal,” said Jerry Bertrand, a physicist and scent specialist, referring to Karen Tse’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a detailed drawing that is one of many pieces in the gallery that visually interprets Lewis Carroll’s famous book.
Though there was no common theme, one can see a definite thread of enchantment between the artists’ pieces and, beneath it all, a sort of ordered chaos.
Joriz Madrid’s Favela is a painted cardboard pop-out wasteland featuring a honeycombed pattern of burnt sky and rust. It overlooks a section of Rio de Janeiro with two young figures looming in the foreground. The artist cited the Brazilian film “City of God” as an influence for the visual aesthetic of the piece.
“Most of them use watercolors. Some use acrylic. We even have mixed media,” said exhibition curator Inna Razumova, who worked with the artists to build their own displays
Many sources of inspiration were cited throughout the night.
James Jean, a visual artist famous in the DC Comics world, and Egon Schiele, an Austrian figurative painter from the 20th century, were a couple of the muses mentioned that night.
“Edward Gorey is the reason I became an illustrator,” said artist Andrés Wemiz, whose saint-like, acrylic portrait-on-canvas of the late writer and artist locks eyes with people who enter the gallery through the outside door.
The exhibit, though, cannot be confined to a mere category or genre.
Louie Hidalgo’s apocalyptic “Fight for an Education” suggests a militaristic take of the college life, while Nadja Martens paints eerie and very personal interpretations of Grimms’ darkest fairy tales.
Tandy Kunkle presents an empowering and analogous series of anthropomorphically modified women, Li Ma draws complicated sculptures and dreamscapes in colorful architecture, and Cristina Flores produces a large work of surreal and often darkly humorous images.
Written into the exhibit is a narrative of unpredictable darkness, nonsensicality and random evil. The viewer becomes intimate with a dark but comprehensive wonderland constructed by the artists.
In Kunkle’s exposed women, Flores’ variations of the human form, or even Madrid’s representations of the “in-between” of mortality and magic, the viewer recognizes how darkness can shift and disguise itself. The gallery illustrates how our everyday chaos is hidden to us (just as in Madrid’s
“Masks” which represent the faces we wear throughout a week), taking various forms.
Artist Percy Manríquez-Monforte communicated this symbolism in his hand-drawn Alice in Wonderland series, a section of wall in the gallery which he said he has yet to complete.
“I take the subject matter,” he said, gesturing to a picture of The Mad Hatter drawn as a corrupt politician, “I research it, I give my own twist to it.”
Despite the intricate and dark body of work, there are instances of real peace behind some of the work.
“My work is a diorama of an imaginative world where landscape and cityscape blend into each other in an atmosphere of balance and harmony,” Li Ma said in her written statement, and also “provides a panoramic view of space, a sense of timelessness, and uncovers the hidden relationship between human and cosmos.”
Many of the current students at the gallery have set long-term goals for their work. Alumna Cristina Flores, who transferred to California College of the Arts, has completed many of her artistic goals already. Others, like Kunkle and Manríquez-Monforte, are steadily expanding their gallery work.
“What’s really interesting about the show is that faculty visiting the exhibition for the first time think the work is done by other faculty,” said Nancy Elliott, City College art instructor. “The quality at CCSF is really high.”
All students partly attributed success in their academic and professional lives to City College.
“It’s been great,” Manríquez-Monforte said, speaking of the department and the gallery itself. “It’s a great place to have access to.”
The Analog exhibit will be open to the public until September 19th at the Gallery in CCSF’s Ocean Campus, in the Visual Arts Building, room v119.
Follow Jandean Deocampo @bananaisafruit.