Fausto Fernandez's "The Virtue of Wisdom" Fails to Accurately Depict the Artist's Work

I have to say that photographs of the paintings of Fausto Fernandez, now on display in "The Virtue of Wisdom" at Gebert Contemporary on Scottsdale's Main Street, really do not accurately depict them. You have to see the paintings in the flesh, so to speak, in order to get any sense of what the works are really like.

In person, one discovers that many of Fernandez's canvases are overwhelmingly enormous, one measuring a whopping 8 by 14 feet — the perfect finishing touch for an upscale corporate conference room or the lobby of a hip hotel. One also discovers that these are not actually paintings, but rather "collage paintings" or "paintings with paper," as the artist himself labels them.

And, face to face with Fernandez's work, one quickly determines that, beneath a razor-thin veneer of what masquerades as conceptual content, there isn't much else to be discovered.

Courtesy of Gebert Contemporary

Details

"The Virtue of Wisdom" runs through November 28 at Gebert Contemporary, 7160 Main St. in Scottsdale. Call 480-429-0711 for information.

The artist behind these multi-layered canvases earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design and painting from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2001. Fernandez claims in a written artist statement that his "work is based on his curiosity of the relationships between people in society and how these relationships impact his personality and life experiences," though the paintings in the Gebert show certainly fail to venture into the territory of the patently personal, emotional, or experiential.

A Mexican American who spent his first 25 years in Mexico, the artist attended high school in the cartel-ravaged city of Juárez. Fernandez seems to have eschewed the notion of incorporating any traces of his cultural or idiosyncratic history into his most recent work. Instead, he has embraced a vanilla-tinged universality easily accessible to all and guaranteed to offend absolutely none.

Mechanical objects (many related to aviation) in 3-D schematic form, hand tools (shades of Jim Dine) and pipe fittings, all of which are usually rendered in black and white, appear frequently in the foreground of Fernandez's canvases. As if to alert us to the fact that, in contrast to manmade objects, organic forms breathe life, the artist creates layered backdrops with color and competing patterns, frequently within the confining boundaries of geometric shapes. Fernandez's combination of techniques, styles, and media — Victorian-style cabbage rose wallpaper, maps, sewing instructions, technical specs, stenciled lace and leaf patterns crafted from tar and acrylic — owe an obvious debt to German artist Sigmar Polke.

Polke thoroughly mystified art audiences in the 1970s and '80s by riotously mixing, layering, and reworking found objects, patterns, and his own drawings, sketches, and paintings into chaotic visual punches on canvas. All these unrelated elements he glued together with sarcasm, humor, irony, and a profound sense of tragedy. Though many of Fernandez's paintings in this show bear Polke's stylistic fingerprints, these works are conspicuously devoid of any of the uncomfortable realities or philosophical conundrums that Polke pushed us to experience.

Some of Fernandez's paintings, including Application of Force in a Single Movement (2009) and The Mechanics of Airborne Maneuvers (2010), also borrow from the figurative vocabulary of Robert Longo's 1980s series "Men in the Cities." Inspired by a movie in which a man gets shot and dies, Longo sought to capture "that moment between dying and dancing" in black and white paintings that featured men in suits and women in office attire writhing/punk dancing against stark white backgrounds. Unfortunately, the silhouetted figures in Fernandez's paintings have none of the anguished torment or chaotic gestures of punk dancing suggested by Longo's figures, coming off more like striped escapees from an old iPod commercial.

This is not to say that Fausto Fernandez isn't technically accomplished. But it's pretty obvious that form definitely trumps subject matter in these paintings. It may very well be that the artist's graphic design aesthetic — crisp, ordered, and controlled — muscles into the picture too much, pushing conceptual concerns into the corner and getting in the way of his exploring "how [social] relationships impact his personality and life experiences."

Fernandez is teetering close to the edge of the deeply decorative in these paintings. At this point, we can only hope that he doesn't fall into the abyss.

 
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12 comments
Suzannefalk
Suzannefalk

k.v.'s desire for blood and guts and acid has made her a poor excuse for a critic - she likes what she likes and clearly has no intention on finding anything redeeming in work that embraces anything but darkness.

her sole goal seems to be the one to set fire to our struggling art scene.

maybe she should just review funerals, but then she'd probably want to put up photos of the mourners.

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Fashionserialkiller
Fashionserialkiller

I like it! why does art have to say something anyways? if everybody would stop trying to size things up maybe they would really see the beauty of art.

citizen
citizen

seems to me, based on the writing, Kathleen "knows" art. Fausto's work is a direct cliche, because it's been the same technique since day 1. art can be "happy" and "positive", yet every1 can paint a pretty picture. Spray paint stencils, tar, glue, paper...mmm...let's see depth. AND who cares where Fausto grew up? stop playing the Minority Card, please.

citizen
citizen

I agree with Kathleen Vanesian perspective. Fausto Fernandez's work are mistitled as "paintings", they are collages. Men make collages, it's not a female hobby, and maybe that is why the works are called paintings? Also, there is no real growth, or change in the work, it's become novalty...same 'ol' same 'ol, which isn't bad, because that sells for steril lobby art in corporate buildings. money is money, and it sells. True, real emotion isn't needed in all art, yet if there is a story behind Fausto Fernandez's work (as we all know of the story/his background life that is), then why can't it be apparent in the visuals as well? I don't get gears, and general graphic form to discribe boarder issues, or struggle with up-bringing.

Joe Brklacich
Joe Brklacich

Why? I ask you, Kathleen, why does an artist have to exhibit “anguish” or “chaos” in his work in order to be relevant? What if the artist isn’t creating from a clichéd dark and tortured place, but instead from a happy, well-adjusted perspective? What if the silhouettes in his work exemplify the passion and beauty he finds in his personal relationships? Why would you characterize the artist’s juxtaposition of the rigid mechanical and diagrammatical elements of our lives against the beautiful and whimsical to be “vanilla-tinged” with a “universality easily accessible to all…” when some gallery visitors are guaranteed to stagger out of the gallery looking for the safety of a painting of a horse, or a cowboy, or a cactus? Fausto’s work challenges you visually, but it also rewards you with beauty and interplay between the hard and soft things in our lives. Isn’t that one of the main reasons we own art, because we find beauty in it and it makes us feel richer? How often do you say, “I must own that. It is ugly and depressing.”? It is okay that some people may not understand the artist’s work. It would be less interesting if they did.Why is an artist raised in Juarez expected to incorporate or display his cultural history? Why would you bind the artist’s work to the place where he grew up? If an artist is born in Iowa is his work less relevant if he is driven to paint seascapes upon arrival to the coast? Must a black artist paint black faces? Does a Native American have to wrap a blanket around every subject? Because Fausto is from Mexico, must you insist he be a “Mexican” artist? Not to mention the fact that Juarez is only recently cartel-ravaged, having nothing to do with the more peaceful time during which he grew up there. Most importantly, even if you were remotely correct in regards to his environment, why would this be a required element of his work? It isn’t always so important where you come from. Sometimes it is more important where you are going.

Fausto Fernandez
Fausto Fernandez

I have to say that obviously i am not a writer so i am sure that in my take of things in this note there are going to be some misspelling and bad grammar, i admire writers and public speakers for the way they express and the quality of the way they write articles. I was born in El Paso, Texas, raised in Mexico for 25 years with dual citizenship and a beautiful Mexican family and a great group of friends, We never questioned our background living in Mexico and the cartels, that is a new thing, growing up in Juarez was the most beautiful childhood and the best times of my life.

To understand my work if what you need to see is my background then you are not going to find it in my artwork, i was raised and studied around the subjects of border issues, issues that are not mine to figure out but maybe others that don't understand will probably need to figure out for themselves. If i lived around this subject matter on a regular basis what more is there to explore other than my own unique style of representation and personal style or expression, I am very happy with my current work , as decorative as it may seem , it was a process of personal growth being able to change from the stereotypical and the torment subjects that happen very often when speaking of border issues. If if fail to express those things in my work then i feel i have been successful at leaving that behind to explore issues that could be more positive , even if it is just with color and decoration, not to mention that i do have some firm ideas behind my work that are conceptual, but then again that is what drives me and that is what i love and what i will continue doing. I am proud for this show and the way i go about making my work. In college we were encouraged to look at many other artist and being influenced by them was a great thing, if in any of my works anyone sees any resemblance to great masters then i have to say thank you.

citizen
citizen

art is visual communication that's why art/visuals are sized up. it's like body language...it speaks for itself.

Wayne Michael Reich
Wayne Michael Reich

Citizen-I would agree that your reply is chock full of grammatical errors, muddled thoughts, spelling errors, and a total lack of understanding of art in general.

I think you'd make an excellent New Times Art critic.Or possibly a First Friday Scenester.

No reason why you can't be both, come to think of it.

Respectfully,Wayne Michael Reich(http://www.WayneMichaelReich.com0

Wayne Michael Reich
Wayne Michael Reich

Well said Fausto!You rock- that is all.

I personally have always found your work refreshing, interesting, bold and innovative to say the very least.

As someone who has been depicted as being quite the negative fellow, I love the fact that your artistic center is based on positive energy, which we all could use a lot more of these days.

Whenever I've gotten a bad review, [shocking, but it happened once.] I just remind myself of this quote: "Critics are legless men.... who teach running".

Apparently, Kathleen is training for a marathon.

Not every artist follows the standard cliche, Kathleen- it is a shame you aren't willing to accept what goes beyond the populist vision of "The Artist".

And if Fausto does indeed- "fall into the abyss" one of these days, I'm pretty sure we [who love his work] will be more than happy to follow him.

Respectfully,

Wayne Michael Reich(http://www.WayneMichaelReich.c...)

citizen
citizen

i wrote thoughtS, i wasn'T TrYing to impress ppl with grAmmer, Spelllling, and i don't cAre what u think mr ASS

Wayne Michael Reich
Wayne Michael Reich

Please Citizen- we're all friends here, so please just call me Ass, ok?

And along those lines,,, nothing says "I'm an individual with deep thoughts" like your semi illiterate response above.

I actually felt my IQ drop just by reading it. Ouch.

Respectfully,Wayne Michael Reich(http://www.WayneMichaelReich.c...)

 
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