by Ehren Clark

In its comfortable niche on Fourth South, House Gallery is now showing a collection of paintings by Charles Fresquez, all roughly 12” square, that sit as comfortably in the space as the gallery does in its Exchange Place neighborhood. The New Mexico-based artist presents, Studies for the Next Generation, new works that traverse the boundary between their traditional Southwestern motifs and something much more modern: Minimalist abstraction. Made of cast acrylic and enamel on silicone, they merit classification with those hard-edged boxes characterized by luminous metal and plastic surfaces. To the contemporary viewer who might see both traditions in these impeccably crafted paintings, how might one reconcile that which is “the zigzagged geometry of Zapotec weaving” with the “minimal luminosity that riffs on the West coast’s Light and Space enterprise?” The answer may lie in space: the closer the viewer looks into these eight small-scaled pieces the more voluminous they become in their geometric precision and their ability to manipulate light and color taken from nature.

Fresquez displays two main influences: his Hispanic heritage and the influence of abstraction. By traversing their boundaries, he liberates the decidedly Hispanic material through his use of material. Much of what constitutes the land of New Mexico is the quality of light playing on the landscape, producing vivid colors with infinite variation depending on the time of day and the season of the year. Fresquez’s environmental backdrop and the processes by which natural phenomena are made possible are recreated in the play of light within the carefully joined segments of material that comprise each untitled painting. Each is comprised of quarter inch-thick cast acrylic, enamel, and silicone that decisively state its composition. This is where the magic happens. For example, Fresquez constructs one side of one segment white, while the adjacent segment might have the adjoining side painted red. This allows the tone to be captured by light and to flow into the clear segment while being blocked from entering the first segment’s opaque painted side. With such quilted play, these panels are alive like the landscapes of New Mexico.

House Gallery’s Catherine Wagley writes: “The patterns in Fresquez’s Next Generation seem perfectly poised to continue regenerating, or storytelling, forever, which is, ultimately, the point: to create a method of working that continually recreates itself and pushes forward through time.” In work that initially seems rigid and minimal, in fact Fresquez’s creations are organic and inviting in a fabric of play that mimics the natural wonders of the environment that has historically facilitated such artistic motifs. Fresquez is merely looking beyond the surface.

Charles Fresquez: Studies for the Next Generation is at House Gallery through March 26.