Two graphic traditions are braided into the works of Alberto Cruz — one from the land of Shinto gods, where sacred spirits take the form of wind, mountains, and rivers; and one from Cruz’s homeland in Oaxaca, Mexico, where gods are stamped in obsidian. Through both realms, in landscapes ranging from the fantastic to the solemn, ranges a visual poet of purity and simplicity.
While known primarily for his simple and direct linocut prints, In Cruz’ first solo show in the US, drawings take center stage. The artist says, “While my primary work is in block printing, I wanted to share one-of-a-kind pieces that have a softer feel, more like you might get from a lithograph.” Gallery owner Frank Rose has been exhibiting Cruz’ work since the gallery’s inception. “People are so infatuated with Alberto’s editioned pieces so I am excited to share his unique works on paper!” says Rose.
The succinct nature of his visions is a type of poetry in itself. The drawings in Reconciliaciones can possess the brevity of haiku and the length of a tanka, the playful chorus of a Mexican folk song or a hypnotic lullaby. Others resemble Zapotecan dichos, especially those that chase off bad omens or invoke the help of the gods.
It’s not a coincidence that there is a hint of Japanese aesthetic in Cruz’ work. The artist's time at University was spent studying with Japanese-Mexican artist Shinzaburo Takeda, whose influence is keenly felt in the Oaxacan arts community.
Cruz illustrates the metric of the cosmos in miniature. His ethereal drawings, inspired by children’s illustrations, are set in muted, moderated color. The scenes are filtered through waterlogged kaleidoscopes, drawn as if his crayons were diluted in a Oaxacan river or a cup of oolong tea. Water undulates like a veil over an illogical dreamworld. Childhood is hidden behind flowers, lovers levitate over water lilies, an alligator gets a tattoo, a child’s heart overflows into a mushroom cloud.
Cruz regards color as a fickle friend, one that can change depending on the moment, mood, or transmutation. Indeed, his linocuts are primarily made in black ink, with perhaps a splash of red here and there. These drawings are in full color, coming to life in a softer yet very dynamic tone. The artist is a conductor of fantasies. Whether human, dog, or flower, all dream in a world without order and filled with possibility.
Alberto Cruz was born in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca, and holds a Plastic Arts degree from the Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca. His primary medium is printmaking. He has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Mexico and group exhibitions internationally. He is a member of the Oaxaca Graphic and Burro Press Workshop.
Reconciliaciones will open Friday, August 27, and will be on view through September 20. An opening reception will take place on August 27.