Richard Huntington’s latest solo show, “RE-MIXico,” in Casa de Arte, takes us through a collection of works that were inspired by his time spent at his second home in San Miguel de Allende, a city in the central highlands of Mexico.
Always a thoughtful and astute observer of life and culture, Huntington borrows varied imagery and iconography from his new home, and through painting, collage-like techniques or a combination of the two, creates works that, whether wildly dynamic or wryly hilarious, never abandon a deep yet playful adoration for the very place that inspired them.
Historically, Huntington’s works have thrived on contradiction and juxtaposition. He has been known to combine elements of both high and low culture to contrast the cartoonish with the somber and to reference art historical masters such as Picasso and de Kooning in deliciously irreverent fashion. In “RE-MIXico,” Huntington continues along this path, referencing the works of legendary Mexican masters Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo, while simultaneously mining such divergent sources as Mexican graffiti art and cartoons from a 1970s-era Spanish language manual.
These combinations result in stylistically sophisticated yet hilarious works with wonderfully absurd titles such as “I Was a Teeny Bopper for Diego Rivera 2014,” a work in which bold fields of color overlay text that surround a shapely pair of bare female legs in midstride. A hand holding a scalpel also occupies a large portion of the picture plain. This mixture of divergent imagery borrowed from Renee Magrite and Diego Rivera, but merged by Huntington, is a riotous example of his keen sensibility for manipulating ready-made sources and turning them into something fresh and new.
In another expert combination of opposites, “Pepsi Madonna (2014),” Huntington gives us a boldly colored virgin and child, reverently posed in front of Pepsi’s emblem. It’s a sardonic look at two examples of immediately recognizable iconography used to largely different ends. Huntington even gives a tip of the hat to Buffalo-based artist Bruce Adams, known for his realist, partially nude figures, in “Nude with Mask (after Bruce Adams), 2014.” A Mexican mask and bare arms and legs are seen floating in a blood red sea of paint, with a barely visible graphic design in the background, a commingling of Huntington’s two lives and two homes.
Lest one forget, among this bacchanalia of color and shrewdly coupled imagery, about Huntington’s superb ability to simply put brush to paper with wildly expressive and beautiful results, we only need to turn to “Bailada (Dancer), 2007,” one of his earlier works in the series.
Abandoning the vibrant colors found in many of the other works and painting in black and white acrylic, a man is seen midmovement, raising a hat over his head in a lively manner, surrounded by clapping figures so quickly rendered they verge on the abstract. The scene, in all its expressive glory, captures the vitality, spontaneity and sheer fun of “RE-MIXico” in one fell swoop.
What: Richard Huntington: “RE-MIXico”
When: Through June 22
Where: Casa de Arte, 141 Elmwood Ave.