ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Neo primitive folk artists Isaac AlaridPease and Janet Hoelzel are exhibiting at the Mariposa Gallery. Though working within the now-popular style neither artist can claim the pure innocence required of true folk art as they both have studied and worked in the arts for many years.
Northern New Mexican AlaridPease earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting from the University of New Mexico in 1998. Hoelzel worked as a photographer for 20 years and then as a potter for 14 years before returning to painting at age 50.
Both artists are inspired by the matter-of-fact aesthetics found in folk art and incorporate those naive elements into their imagery.
My attraction to AlaridPease’s paintings, however, is not his affinity for street art and graffiti but his strong kinship with Bay Area figure painting from the early 1950s. The stylization of AlaridPease’s form-building brushstrokes gives a nod to both David Park and Elmer Bischoff.
Park broke the West Coast abstract expressionist nonobjective ice with “Kids on Bikes” in 1950. Bischoff waited until 1956 to include figures in his paintings.
One must credit AlaridPease for his skillful olio approach that also embraces graffiti-inspired works by contemporary Mexican muralists like Neuzz and a number of Albuquerque’s lesser-known aerosol artists.
AlaridPease really lights up the downstairs gallery with his bodacious palette brimming with Easter egg colors and high-energy brushwork. His figures and faces spill out to the edges of each painting while celebrating life, love and the fecundity of the human imagination.
He loves big-city intrigue, decay and rebirth through experience. Even a prize fight becomes a celebration in works like “TKO” a both tough and happy composition.
AlaridPease offers a heroic scale head surrounded by constant activity in his “When Eyes Pause Slowly Through.”
His inclusive approach to inspiration embodies abstract expressionism, San Francisco figure painting as well as Los Angeles works by artist like Gronk or New Yorker Keith Haring, who were real street artists before being embraced by the curatorial world.
Dogs, cats, sock monkeys, dolls and I suspect artists like European primitive Henri Rousseau are the triggers behind Hoelzel’s paintings. In her artist statement, Hoelzel says she is seduced by the process of painting and eschews the obfuscation of Renaissance perspective and other oppressive rules of art.
However, she cannot really avoid art history, which includes at least stylistically works by Paul Gauguin who also sought the primitive in art. Hoelzel’s “Sock Monkey in Harem Pants” can be compared to Gauguin as well as fauvists like Henri Matisse, who were pursuers of all things exotic.
Gauguin fled Paris for Tahiti while Matisse spent his leisure hours in Morocco.
In contrast Hoelzel enjoys painting at community centers surrounded by mostly untrained artists who inspire her to stay the course of direct high-wire-without-a-net experience untrammeled by preliminary sketches, layout lines and other “crutches”.
Cartoons are a fascination to Hoelzel in works like “Felix with Flying Mouse” and “Monkey in the Jungle,” both of which are celebratory.
Because there is wide collector interest in folk and primitive art and cities like Baltimore have built museums to house outsider art many artists are drawn to the genre. My question is: Can one be an outsider with a BFA or 34 years of experience in the arts?
AlaridPease is a talented painter who probably doesn’t need street cred to be a successful artist. His work will fly in any arena he chooses. Hoelzel with her conscious avoidance of training may be able to hang on to her innocence, which no matter how hard she tries will still be rooted in German expressionism, abstract expressionism and those years she actually lived in San Francisco.
Before enlightenment you chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment you chop wood and carry water.
Both shows are worth a look.