One reason these paintings are so complex is because Bianchi recognizes that in our modern, digitized, info-glutted lives, the borders that previously divided distinct cultures have largely disintegrated. “Memory Board”—the first painting in this series and the springboard, in many ways, for the whole show—melds elements of gaucho mythology with Argentinean urban iconography and American crass mass mono-culture into an impressive, large-scale, collage-like painting. The piece captures the jumbled, chaotic nature of Bianchi's residual memories, making connections between elements that logic wouldn't typically place together on the same canvas.
Similarly, in “Mr. Somewhat” Bianchi explores the fragility of memory. This painting depicts several indistinct afterimages of a gaucho arranged vertically on a highly textured surface. Unlike some of the more refined pieces in the show, “Mr. Somewhat” makes effective use of a pleasingly raw aesthetic. In places the naked canvas is visible beneath thick layers of gooey acrylic. The painting looks like a crumbling urban wall marred by decaying propaganda posters and graffiti—a perfect characterization of our tenuous memories.
Several paintings incorporate images lifted directly from mass culture. From Coca-Cola to Dr. Pepper to the Argentinean beer Quilmes to Zoloft, corporate symbols shout out from the swirling, brightly hued vortices of Bianchi's imagination, showing how this commercial imagery has seared itself into brains all over the world.
Tiny plastic cowboys and Indians fight along the windowsills of the gallery's two large multi-paned windows, creating a tantalizing and funny link between our nation's own cowboy mythology and Argentina's historic gaucho culture. “Choice Cuts” depicts a flat, smoking gaucho drawn into a butcher's diagram distinguishing different cuts of meat. In this piece, a cowboy is commodified like a cow.
Most of Bianchi's paintings are compositionally and texturally sophisticated. He uses a painterly, layered style to create images with many hidden or partially obscured elements. To take one example, “Man vs. Myth” shows a gaucho silhouette against the backdrop of a Marlboro cigarette label. Embedded within the wavering equine imagery is a Dali-esque second image of a gaucho, peering out like a reflection in a rippling pool of water.
It's been eight or nine years since Bianchi last had the opportunity to visit his extended family in Argentina. Since then, his memories of his parent's country have faded and mutated into new and—judging by this show—strikingly beautiful forms. If you can spare an hour or two, give Trevor Lucero a call sometime before the end of the month so you can take a look at Bianchi's work in one of the better new Downtown galleries.
Memory Boards: Exploring Hybrid Histories, an exhibit featuring paintings by Fabrizio Bianchi, runs through March 28 at Trevor Lucero Studio Artspace. By appointment only. 244-0730.