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Exquisite combinations: Using a Surrealist game as inspiration, exhibition looks at two ideas combined into works of art

“Ode to Laura Nyro RIP 1947-1997” by Bobb Maestas, 16-by-20 inches, mixed-media assemblage. Courtesy of Matrix Fine Art

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This “Exquisite Corpse” simply won’t die.

The Surrealist Andr√© Breton hatched the game in 1925 after the old parlor game “Consequences.”

People wrote a phrase on a sheet of paper, folded it and passed it on to the next player to do the same until they produced a disjointed story.

Twenty artists at Albuquerque’s Matrix Fine Art have continued this Surrealist ritual to create their own individual “corpses.”

Each artist concocted their own word or phrase. They then added a second concept tossed into a hat by each group member. Each artist randomly drew from the hat and combined the two ideas into a work of art in “Silent Partners.” The results will hang through Oct. 31.

“Hoop Aerialist” by Stephanie Silva, 18-by-20 inches, acrylic. (Courtesy of Matrix Fine Art)

“It’s a reaction to the current polarization happening in society,” said Mark Woody, exhibition organizer and artist. “It also (derived from) realizing that there’s a vibrant art community around Albuquerque (and) the need for a spirit of community.”

Many of the resulting works grew from the personal; others turned political.

Bobb Maestas produced an ode to the great ’60s-’70s singer/songwriter Laura Nyro.

“I was touched by her my whole life,” he said. “She died 20 years ago of ovarian cancer. She wasn’t getting the proper care.”

Maestas created his mixed-media collage using four layers of organic rice paper. He used a laser printer to produce the images, then painted the work with cobalt blue and the colors of golden honey, reflecting a line from Nyro’s hit “Stoned Soul Picnic.” The trees form the letter “W” for women.

“Women have been discarded by the health care system,” Maestas said. “This is a tribute to women.”

The piece germinated in Maestas’ head 20 years ago, as he was working on a series he called “Pop Tones.” When he pulled the prompt “Minerva” he knew he could thread it to his own word “Poetica.”

“Lament of Balance” by Vasil Katakis, 20-by-28 inches, pastel on paper.

Minerva was the Roman goddess of war who celebrated the arts and literature.

Organizer Woody blended his own word “Tribal” with the prompt “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right.” The pair made for a difficult alliance, he acknowledged.

“I was thinking of the Southwest,” he said. “Also, because we’re a community, a tribe.

On the internet, “They’ve been describing the two parties Democrat and Republican as tribes. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so political.’ ”

Woody centered his piece on the coyote, using both the trickster image of Native America and the tradition of coyote hunts.

“Way Out West,” oil on canvas, 36-by-48 by Mark Woody.¬†(Courtesy of The Artist)

The trickster spirit emerges from the body of a dead coyote. Woody added the “Acme” label etched into the rifle butt in a tribute to the Warner Bros. cartoon. A roadrunner skull lies in the foreground.

The prodding by another artist pushed his creativity.

“This was so good for me because it gave me instant outside information,” he said. “You’re using something outside yourself.”

Vasili Katakis, who teaches through the New Mexico Art League, usually paints botanicals.

He liked the word “Trajectory.” But he pulled the prompt “Abandon Truth or Perish.”

“When I read it, it was like, ‘This might be dark, even tragic,’ ” he said. “It’s pretty much the opposite of what I do.”

“Brian” by Iva Morris, 36-by-64 inches, oil on canvas.

He asked if he could trade the phrase for something else. Exhibition organizers told him no.

The resulting “Lament of Balance” combined the two thoughts through the image of blind justice.

The bruised and battered figure lifts a sword within a shower of trailing meteors. One scale has broken in half.

“Shadows and Stars” by Ann Bromberg, 12-by-12 inches, digital fine art print.

“Symbolically, who knows where they’ll land?” Katakis said. “One thing affects another.”

“She’s vulnerable, but she’s strong,” he continued. “She’s holding the sword of justice. I gave it a more luminescent quality; that means strength.”

Katakis is grateful he kept to the “Exquisite Corpse” program.

“I was challenged and I’m glad I was. For an artist to stay fresh … it was wonderful.”


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