In his solo show "Things Have Gone to Pieces," San Antonio artist Ed Saavedra has confidently assembled a hugely disparate ensemble of recent works. Hosted by G Gallery, the show opened Saturday night. It's not easy to get a sense of scale in Saavedra's show in which an eight-foot-tall canvas depicting jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis as a colossal stone pharaoh is hung beside a curio-size assemblage comprising an action figure, a seven-day pill box, and a sort of plastic human snout.
Without a single focus or message, Saavedra's grandest statements are undercut by mischievous humor. Or is it that the jokes underline some somber truths? Take the two works derived from a single canvas, a reproduction of the Gainsborough's iconic Blue Boy, with the boy cut out and hanging by a bedsheet from the ceiling, with the remainder standing as a separate work at the other end of the room, its silhouette still quite recognizable.
The Blue Boy is already a joke, but the story behind the work rather tragic. The hanging canvas boy's title is "Fifteen Minutes After Lights Out (Bexar County Jail)," a reference to an acquaintance of the artist who did himself in at the lockup.
Saavedra's titles are often the lynchpin for understanding his works, but the painting "Carl Lives" needs little elaboration. It is a reproduction of the memorable image of black militant Carl Hampton from the posters and newspaper photographs following his murder by the Houston Police in 1970, a reminder, an homage, and a puzzle: the eyes have been X-ed out, but we hardly see it as a desecration.
The neighboring Nau-haus Gallery on Eleventh Street also opened a new show "Perforate" on Saturday, with new works by Keith Perelli, his second show in two years there. Perelli's monotype prints of engaging young faces and bodies are richly collaged and with lace, yard waste, and hardware.
Perelli says he relies on the monotype process to produce unpredictable results, and the process is especially meaningful for a recent series depicting urban toughs from his home city of New Orleans, portraits derived from mug shots. The young men in these works are facing serious trouble as well as an opportunity for self-assessment and change. With Perelli's tender brushwork, and layering of minute details, the subjects are rendered nearly as venerated saints.
Perelli's delicate approach, which works nicely with his rather more personally invested portraits, is made somewhat risky with these guarded and even combative subjects. The show's centerpiece "Milagras Obscuras" attempts to set doubt aside though its bold execution.
"Things Have Gone to Pieces: Ed Saavedra" runs during April at G Gallery during April.
"Perforate" runs during April at Nau-Hau Gallery.