Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Controlled Chaos: Jimmi Toro mixes paintings, songs & videos at Urban Arts Gallery

Jimmi Toro’s fluid line work lays itself gracefully across his paintings. Even in moments of disruption, where the ink spatters or skips, the faces and forms of his creating stare back at us, inviting us into their world. While his work uses a variety of techniques, it is the dripped ink that we might think of first; the result of years of experimentation with application and mediums. However, Toro’s work extends far beyond that and his upcoming solo exhibit at the Urban Arts Gallery, in Salt Lake City’s The Gateway Mall, is a bold demonstration of his expansive creativity.

Toro’s new work builds on his already eclectic collection of painting, music and video, with a new level of confidence and structure. The show itself will be divided into six multidisciplinary presentations, each involving Toro’s signature figurative artwork in conjunction with newly composed music and videos to bolster each unique theme. For example, for the collection titled “Amy Jane,” Toro recruited six photographers to explore the concept of substance abuse through the experience of a young girl. The photographs then become part of the video presentation and also serve as inspiration for Toro’s paintings. In this way, Toro becomes the director, as well as the performer, creating the scenarios to inspire collaborators and then responding to their efforts.

Toro’s show also will demonstrate other collaborative works. His studies in movement and the figure while working with a dancer from Ballet West inspired “Separation,” a song about breaking free from destructive relationships, and the resulting artwork. In a series featuring the work of students from the Kimball Art Center, Toro’s song “Soul” talks about knowing someone beyond merely what we can see with our eyes. Inspired by this, the student work on display features a face with the eyes purposefully obscured.

These collaborative processes are indicative of the inspiration for all of his work, in that he hopes to bring people together and show them how to view themselves and each other in new ways. When I spoke with him, he said the work was meant to be “inspirational” and that the show itself was created “keeping the audience in mind.” One of the goals of the presentation, in his words, is to “slow people down and hit their core a bit. There’s a beauty to art, like nature, that slows people down, connects them, and grounds them.”

hese distinctive presentations give the viewer the opportunity to do just that. Each aspect of the work develops a greater context for the others and when taken in together, our experience becomes one of focused attention. Toro’s work speaks to our media-saturated culture as well, utilizing the various forms of input in a unified way that grabs our attention from all sides. While that can sound jarring, it actually can serve as a respite from the conflicting sensory invasions we typically are confronted with.

Returning to the signature application of ink, most often applied with a spoon and dripped skillfully onto the painting, Toro is quick to mention the importance of exploration in his process. This technique, he says, “forces you to move around the piece. [It’s] a controlled chaos, in a way. [It] takes skill to control it, but allows flexibility in the result.” That flexibility is key to Toro’s work. It allows him to continue exploring, learning, and collaborating in new, exciting ways and also enables us to join him on the ride.


The work of Jimmi Toro is at Urban Arts Gallery in Salt Lake City November 4 – 27. Artist reception Friday, November 4, 6-9 pm. Gallery Stroll reception Friday, November 18, 6-9 pm.

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