After a spiritual experience in the desert southwest in 1994, Arizona native Hilario Gutierrez dove into abstraction at 43 years old with no previous painting experience. Over twenty years and twelve solo shows later, his contemporary acrylic paintings continue to embody the collision of emotions felt before a dramatic western landscape.
Pieces like “In the Swirl” and “No Particular Order” are nearly jarring in their chaos of overlapping horizontal hues that chase each other down the canvas, diving over and pushing against each other as they fight for space on the painting’s surface. Just when we begin to fear for the composition’s overall aesthetic cohesion, the turmoil relaxes into a single pulse of organized movement that places us beneath an ever-changing New Mexico sky or before a blazing Arizona sunset. Broader blocks of texturized color in “Stone Bridge” and “The Slow Melt” are reminiscent of Rothko color fields with harder edges, providing a break from the surface tension and even bordering on ethereal in pieces like “White Bird.” Gutierrez stretches his canvases over wood panels, giving permanence to their structure while maintaining absorbent and buoyant painting surfaces. The artist’s ultimate subject matter becomes his own medium as its scraped, smoothed and layered into an exciting visual experience.
See Gutierrez' exhibition, "Full Circle," on display at Tansey Contemporary in Santa Fe through June 30th.