PACO POMET | Endings
Nov 5 – Dec 31, 2021
Robischon Gallery is pleased to present five concurrent solo exhibitions featuring artists Paco Pomet (Granada, Spain), Walter Robinson (Santa Fe, NM), Tom Judd (Philadelphia, PA), Gary Emrich (Denver, CO), and Terry Maker (Louisville, CO). The painting, sculpture, mixed media and video installation works on view address a range of complex historical issues, as well as reflect the cultural relationships and challenging conditions present in the contemporary world. Alluding to a variety of weighty themes, from societal hierarchies to the environment, and handled in an uncommon, unexpected manner by the five artists on view, the exhibitions offer an engaging look at America’s past and present. Painters Pomet and Judd, along with video artist Emrich, take full artistic license with photographic or filmic references of the past, while sculptors Robinson and Maker carve and cast larger-than-life provocative narrative works. The distinctive artworks on view vary and interconnect through imagery that is intentionally potent, surreal, poetic and absurd, while respectfully inviting the viewer to interpret and fully participate in a cultural dialogue that is both personal and ever-changing.
In his second solo exhibition at Robischon Gallery, Paco Pomet features his newest series of paintings which further expand upon his recognized vocabulary and enigmatic surrealistic approach. For “Endings,” Pomet comments that while the current global health crisis has caused certain societal modalities in America and throughout the world to come to an end or a considerable standstill, it has also heightened awareness of interdependence and the need for an even broader understanding of what is and what has not been valued by governments and citizens alike. In his ongoing pursuit of visual contradictions and the opportunity for divergent narratives, the deftly painted fantastical and sometimes overtly political and provocative imagery is in part sourced from random period photographs, allowing for present complex and thought-provoking views that look both forward and back. To emphasize such opposites each work is primarily a monochromatic greyscale palette with further additions of brilliant and evocative hues. For “Endings,” Pomet again uses color to amplify the moment as he turns his eye to the past and comments on present world events with deep understanding and an often-wry intentionally confounding twist. In a Gwynned Vitello interview with Juxtapoz Magazine, the artist states, “I am very interested in current affairs, but in order to fully understand today’s world, it is necessary to look back and examine historical events. The past is full of hints that can unveil the present, so in some ways, we could paraphrase that statement which says that there’s nothing new under the sun (Nihil Novi). I have always thought that subjects and themes remain the same over centuries, and that human pursuits, aspirations and chimeras are cyclical. Nowadays, we might have different tools and ways of approaching those issues, but the important questions remain the same, even though the way they show up changes throughout the years.”
The featured paintings embrace, but are not limited to, three of the following general themes: Capitalism and prevalent hierarchies, the environment and land use, and select critical moments in American history from a global perspective. The exhibition artworks addressing commerce and power structures include Pomet’s painting entitled The Restrainers; a painting that comically reveals two modern era businessmen who are in the midst of a greeting or transaction and have found that their handshake is encased in an elongated yellow striped arm constraint. Displaying mutually tense expressions, the artist conveys that the visual contradiction in the work may refer to an uncomfortable binding agreement that requires maintaining a guarded distance between the two men, as well as an intent to actively restrict access to those on the outside of the conversation. Instead of cooperating with ease, the peculiar binding manifests in the manner of an exaggerated Chinese finger puzzle, as in, the harder the figures pull against or away from one another the more difficult it is to individuate and advance – much like America’s deeply divided citizenry and political culture. Nearby, but in relationship to The Restrainers, sits the painting entitled Capo, a seemingly more benign figure of a wide-eyed cartoon-headed man in a suit. Capo – the word for “chief,” or more directly, the sort of chief who is more mafia boss or worse, brings an expanded, if less comfortable, interpretation to the child-like playful image first encountered. In the painting entitled The Last Executive Committee Meeting, twelve members of a stiffly postured all-male board are seated aside one another in Biblical fashion, posing for the camera as a god-like sun-headed figure illuminates the book resting on their conference table. Many questions arise for both artist and viewer, such as if in a religious sense, have the twelve apostles now in modern-day been replaced by twelve merchants, while the board’s director sits at the helm wielding power and avoiding identification except to those present. Tangentially, and as counterpoint, the imagery also may propose the potential of a metaphorical sunset on the white-male-dominated workplace. The three diminutive paintings in the “Sizes” series take a humorous yet serious look at the history of the workplace, as well. The giant grabby hands on the bizarre small male figure in one of the series’ paintings are in contrast to the enormous high-heeled fetishized feet on the skirted, awkwardly seated women in another work. “Sizes” begs the question of who has the power in the workplace and how gender has long played a central role. Pomet’s further investigation into gender roles led the artist to the painting entitled Amblers. The monochromatic blue artwork of topsy turvy figures with a leash utilized in between, plays with opposites and gender identities, also respectfully noting the historical oppression of one over the other. According to the artist, whether individuals are labeled as male/female, or identify as gender-neutral, or other, Pomet offers that despite everything, what prevails in relationship is a quest for equality and meaningful unions between human beings.
Regarding other themes within the exhibition, Paco Pomet’s large paintings of enhanced landscapes address in scale and content, both the beauty and enormity of the complex societal issues in preserving the environment. The painting entitled Apart first gains the viewers’ attention with its eerily fluorescent crimson river cutting through the terrain of the expansive greyed wilderness. In contrast to the vivid call of the river, a feeling of passivity is also present, held by the inactive seated observers who appear to face in the direction of one another though seemingly positioned at too great a distance to be in an effective dialogue. The composition offers an opposite perspective or interpretation, as perhaps there is also a promise of a budding awareness of an urgency within the environment, as the figures sit on the same side of the river signifying that humanity is undeniably part of nature and not separate from it. The subject of humanity’s land use, whether it be for industrial quests or recreation, is highlighted in Prime, as the artist presents a choice backcountry ski area with a cutaway that reveals a well-marbled cut of red meat at the heart of the mountain. The lone skier in the vast wintery landscape may be contemplating a run through the pristine powder or pondering whether the land offers prime commodities like a site for development. Pomet also suggests that the mountain, or Nature, may be personified as a living and wounded being in this scenario and that perhaps the human present at the fore feels empathetic towards it. The range of possible narratives is greatly influenced by the appeal of Pomet’s palette of white and varied blues and the surprising contrast of the fresh pinky redness of the hillside’s cut – offering a visual puzzle that is intended to elicit a layered and personal response. The artist states, “I like to use color in a symbolic way, not as a describing tool. Sometimes the use of a particular tone is justified by certain attributes we apply to it, but it doesn’t always work in this way. Sometimes this unexpected use of color puts into question its properties and conventionalism associated with it; new and unexpected uses can bring a new set of ideas associated to the presence of a certain hue. In many of my works, this inclusion of a strong color breaks the monochromatic structure and creates a contrast heightening a specific element or area in the painting that needs to be emphasized. I tend to prefer saturated colors and I have a special predilection for red, orange, or yellowish green, highly powerful tones that attract the gaze very radically. The neon look can be very effective. I am really fond of the ability that paint has to create an effect of real light, even though what I finally achieve is a delusion. Through this process, painting plays an illusionist role that I particularly enjoy.”
Pomet’s largest scale painting, Nothing to See Here, effectively illustrates his painterly effect of the illusion of colored light cast upon his subjects. In this instance, text is the light source that hovers above a possible glacier-fed lake within a dramatic mountainous landscape. A marginal and as yet underdeveloped road alongside other signs of human encroachment within the snow-covered terrain is stopped short by a commanding other-worldly sign. Large pink neon letters spelling out the title of the painting direct any further potential trespassers to go elsewhere and leave the virgin wildness alone, as the text casts a soft glow upon the water and sheer ice and rock that surround. Pomet often utilizes irony in his work and in the painting Nothing to see here the artist’s painterly sleight-of-hand is particularly effective as it draws attention while balancing multiple meanings and revealing his intent. To add to the irony is the fact that the sole function of a painting is to be seen.
In looking from afar at past and more recent American momentous occurrences, Pomet’s observations from his studio in Spain refresh the dialogue on specific historical topics. The rise of Trump and a resurgence of political and cultural polarization in America, along with the twentieth anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, hold the viewer’s attention. Alongside, in typical Pomet fashion, is the artist’s very humorous take on the aspirational Apollo 8 space flight, as all three historical events receive Pomet’s visual response and international point of view. With intent to omit any subtlety in the painting entitled Reminder, Pomet parleys an excessively passionate, red-hatted figure into a sinister human swastika – a universally despised symbol of the German Nazi party. As the title suggests, and through the eyes of a Spaniard whose own country’s early history of fascism remains deeply felt, Trumpism and its most fervent MAGA-hatted followers are a clear reminder that citizens of all countries must be vigilant as all are susceptible to the different manifestations of the same authoritarian ideals. In the nearby painting, entitled 9.11.01, Pomet alludes to this same vulnerability. The columns refer to various stages of cultural evolvement and stand in as New York City’s Twin Towers. The temporary nature of all civilizations/cultures is humbly alluded to by a few art objects located within their unoccupied stately environment – signifying the passing of time and the mark of humanity’s aspirational makings. The terrorist act that changed America, also changed the world, as Pomet recalls Spain’s parallel experience in 2004 with the Madrid train bombings, known as 11M. The attack consisted of a series of coordinated bombings against the Ceranias commuter train system on the morning of March 11th, killing 193 people and injuring approximately 2,000 commuters. The event constituted the deadliest terrorist attack in Spain’s history and was found to be coordinated by Al-Qaeda. It is with respect and concern that Pomet looks at the events of 9/11 and America’s current political divisiveness – and his uncommon surrealistic approach is intended to allow each viewer a fresh opportunity to decipher and personally investigate the sensitive imagery for themselves.
The final painting in Pomet’s exhibition is entitled Dance, an unexpected commentary on America’s historically ambitious space program and perhaps a reference in part to recent spaceflights by billionaire businessmen Jeff Bezos and the UK’s Sir Richard Branson. Famously, the crew of the Apollo 8 spacecraft was the first to leave low Earth orbit and the first to circle the moon in 1968. The astronauts and America’s space program represent to many citizens pure inspiration and what is perceived to be the greatest of the country’s historical achievements. To others, perhaps it suggests a kind of conquest mentality to be tempered – as life on earth continues to be fraught with turmoil and demands on resources for such expeditions might be better served elsewhere. In Dance, the infinity symbol of the suit’s numeral 8 and the astronaut’s larger-than-life awkward demeanor, are at odds with the historically prescribed reverence to the program. The comically suited astronaut seemingly swings a kind of baffling rocket-doll or child-like figure in a dress, as if to suggest that human beings perhaps aren’t serious enough now or may never be quite up to the challenge of what’s required for such a potentially impactful role or endeavor. The artist conveys that the imagery suggests an absurd version of the dance of life – unwieldy, nonsensical, and perhaps the truth of the human condition.
Pomet’s paintings are visual puzzles that are at once equally mystifying and satisfying, while ripe for interpretation and narrative. They are intended to be open-ended, utilizing humor as the entry point, and the artist’s remarkable paint handling as the essential vehicle. In creating his own visual language, which engages the comical and discordant as well as the contemplative and beautiful, Paco Pomet allows for a convergence of past and present and a glimpse of the wonder in between.
Paco Pomet received a Fine Arts Degree from the University of Granada, and later attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Pomet has exhibited widely in Europe and the United States including the Baker Museum, Naples, FL; the Centro de Arte Contemporánea, Granada, Spain; the Torrance Art Museum, CA; and Bansky’s anti-theme park, Dismaland, in 2015. Pomet’s works are in the permanent collections of the Colecciōn Solo, Madrid, Spain; L’Ecole d’Art Aix en Provence; the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Madrid, Spain; the Santander Museum of Fine Arts, Spain; the Spanish Academy in Rome, Italy; and the Valencia Institute of Modern Art, Spain, among others, as well as many private collections.