Emilio Villalba: Symbols of Death, Signs of Life
Check out Emilio Villalba’s solo show Symbols of Death, Signs of Life at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco (North Beach), on view through this Saturday Dec. 1.
On opening night, Modern Eden gallery was crowded & loud, a cool electric vibe, with collectors, friends, students, and many new fans eager to meet Emilio. I loved spotting Michelle’s dog, Doja / bear (pomeranian) in one of the paintings. Michelle Fernandez, known for her photography, is my long-time friend and how I know Emilio (Michelle and Emilio are partners). I remember when I dog-sat Doja over Christmas a few years ago - she’s the best pomeranian in the world.
The paintings’ bright colors, Polaroid-framed, 3D-room-like compositions, and surreal still-life subject matter are a large departure from Emilio’s earlier abstract portrait works. At this show, the trompe l’oeil effect, and intricate but effortless-looking photorealism contrasted with thick, cartoonish images and heavy-painted flat backgrounds, make this show worth slowly appreciating from every angle.
As a whole, considering the seemingly random, familiar yet off-kilter content of the work — from Modelo bottles, to burning cigarettes, Grace Jones, skulls, rolled dollar bills, eyes, lips, melting lipstick, vintage computers, floppy discs, cacti & roses — makes me feel like I’m having an out of body experience.
To me, these images represent flashes of Villalba’s life, pulled together across time and space into each work. These paintings are like stepping into the artist’s kaleidoscopic memory-scape, where we can find out how reflecting on Emilio’s fragments, takes our minds on a surreal symbolic journey of their own.
Go contemplate Emilio Villalba’s paintings. Is time even real? Am I alive? How old am I? Is life just a dream? It’s official, we ARE in a time warp… You can listen to one of these Night Light episodes that feature Emilio’s artwork as the cover when you go check out the exhibition!