For the Love of Mexico. At Studio Three East.
Reviewed by Charles Donelan
The rows of white votive candles that line the steps leading up to this show symbolize the care and passion with which it was assembled. The artists have made a shrine to the Mexico of their experience and imagination that is as sacred and secular as its subject. Longtime friends Erika Carter and Donna Ayscough work together like members of an established art history movement. Through them a big, soulful conversation about Mexico is taking place — from San Miguel de Allende up northward, in both Spanish and English, but especially in the visual language of art. For Ayscough and Carter, a shared palette of earthy yellows, greens, and blood reds shines daily on endlessly different, clear, and brilliant compositions. The effect is of two distinct voices speaking one vibrant idiom.
Carter’s collages express a painterly sensibility through sensuous surfaces and bold reversals of figure and ground. In these pictures, various familiar Spanish phrases float by in block letters, slightly underneath the surface and more often than not inverted or on their sides. The effect is of eavesdropping on the daydreams of a new Spanish speaker, as in the flagship work of the show from which the exhibition title was taken: “Para el amor de Mexico.” It’s got mariachi, flying Mexican putti, and what appears to be a Mexican infanta, all deployed across a broad wooden surface with great delicacy and tact.
Ayscough’s signature elements in this collection are calla lilies, the dramatic and elegant white flowers that line the canals of Teotihuacán and are displayed in extravagant, overflowing abundance in the flower markets of central Mexico. Diego Rivera’s painting of a nude in front of an arrangement of calla lilies may be the most obvious point of departure for these images, but don’t rule out Robert Mapplethorpe’s glamorous silver-gelatin photos as a hidden counterbalance to the Mexican influence.
The way the show is hung brings an added dimension to the art. Ayscough’s nine square paintings in the gallery’s piano room make a rich, complexly associative grid. And an equally compelling and even larger grid of Carter’s square collages on tin, located in the bar, records a tender ritual of homage to the beauty and inspiration of a magical country. n