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