Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Sandro Gebert is the son of a kind of artistic dynasty.
The son of the owners of Santa Fe’s Gebert Contemporary, he ran the gallery’s Los Angeles branch for four years before deciding to create his own artistic vision.
The results, “Ideogramer,” will hang in the Canyon Road gallery through Dec. 31.
Gebert majored in film at Los Angeles’ Loyola Marymount University and also studied screen printing, photography and painting – “whatever I could get my hands on,” he said.
A screenwriting class left a lasting impact. The teacher criticized one of Gebert’s scripts, tell him he had no life experience, so he had no story to tell. He realized the instructor was right.
When he graduated, he worked in motion graphic design and graphic design before joining the family business in 2004.
“One of the benefits was I got to work with all these amazing artists,” he said.”I got to ask who their influences were and about their techniques.”
His own journey into becoming an artist really began when his daughter was born in 2016.
“What do I want my daughter to see me as?” he asked himself. “Doing a number of different things or committing to something I have a passion for?”
Two years later, a wildfire scorched part of his California home, destroying both his studio and 20-year art collection.
“I didn’t even have a paintbrush left,” Gebert said.
He felt like his entire creative existence had been wiped off the earth.
He took the loss to reevaluate both his process and what he wanted to say with his work. He spent three years rebuilding his studio.
“Losing those pieces still haunts me,” Gebert continued. “I never thought a wildfire would come and just take everything.”
He created his current body of work “Ideogramer” in honor of the street artists who create with no expectation of recognition. A series of 5-by-7-inch mixed media on cardboard pieces resembling playing cards dominates the show.
“I’ve always been fascinated by symbols,” he said.
The small paintings combine symbolism with the unabashed vigor of street art.
“They represent a deck of playing cards of poker,” he explained. “I love to play and I find it a very interesting game. Most people think they’re good at it, which is interesting. And symbolic images have been around for hundreds of years. A lot of my work has been inspired by street art. I travel a lot and I walk around cities and there’s graffiti everywhere.”
His painting “Diamond Hands” was taken from an investing phrase referring to something the owner would never sell. It can also describe a poker hand.
“I was always fascinated by that term,” Gebert said, “of a certain group of people who see that title and feel bad about holding onto things.”
With its black diamond shape and rough surface, it looks like something the viewer could cut from a street wall.
“I work hard to mimic those finishes and distressed work,” Gebert said.
“The Visitor” could be a playing card king or a wolf.
“That was my homage to the artists that inspired me, like (neo-expressionist Jean-Michel) Basquiat,” Gebert said. “It’s something light, kind of like a children’s illustration. You want to leave the audience with something light. It’s an homage to my daughter, like ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’ ”
Conversely, his “Untitled, Flag” expresses the trauma of gun violence. He says he didn’t want to paint a flag at first, because the image is so loaded with meaning.
“I made it after the school shooting in Uvalde, (Texas),” Gebert said. “The children (19 of whom died) just completely destroyed me. I imagined how the flag might feel. The stars might look like bullet holes or people being shot. After I created it, I felt a kind of relief. You look at it and see a scowl.”
He’s already thinking about making larger work, buying large panels.
“I’ve fallen in love with this idea,” Gebert said, “the visual language of symbols. When I look at them, they make me feel something.”