Man of Many Moods, Modes

Victoria Dalkey
Sacramento Bee Art Correspondent

Eduardo Carrillo’s retrospective exhibition at the Crocker Art Museum’s Tempo Gallery had the same effect on me as an all you can eat smorgasbord has on a shaky member of Weigh Watchers. I’ve been back three times since it opened and I’m hungry for more. It isn’t that the works aren’t satisfying and nutritious. It’s just that they’re so rich, and varied, and tempting.
No one could ever accuse Carrillo of falling prey to the hobgoblin of consistency. Each of the 18 oils on view, done between 1970-1986, stakes out fresh territory. He brings his considerable skill, complex intellect and spiritual searching to each work, moving from small and intimate, realistic still lifes and landscapes to monumental mythic figurative paintings that draw inspiration from the simplified forms and heroic proportions of Mexican murals.
Above all, Carrillo is a painter of light and its transforming effect on the world of appearances. Yet this work is nothing like that of the Impressionists who strove to render an optical reality by recording the way light strikes the surfaces of things– the skin of the world as it were. With Carrillo, you get the whole body– deep, solid, and resonant. And within that body, always, is a spiritual presence– a sense of the invisible that dwells in the visible. The exhibit opens with seven works done between 1970 and 1972 when Carrillo was teaching at California State University, Sacramento. It’s interesting to see how they move back and forth between straight realism and a more symbolic approach. “Interior” records the dusky, cool light falling through slated blinds on a room furnished with remnants from thrift stores and restaurants– a Naugahyde corner booth, a wicker rocker, a sad flowered carpet brought to life by intense bands of light. It’s a small painting, but so convincing you enter it and walk around in the dim light. In “Testament of the Holy Spirit”, Carrillo translates that veracity to a larger scale ellectual, and social critic–rises in ecstasy, her body a series of arcs lifted in praise, is simply magnificent. As intensely religious and erotic as Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Teresa,” it’s a radical, new work that connects strongly with the Spanish tradition of religious mysticism. For me it’s the most important painting in the show. It offers hope that contemporary art can connect with the past without mocking it, that a grand vision is still possible and that our humanity can be restored to us through art. Don’t miss it. “Sor Juana” and the rest of Carrillo’s works are a remarkable culmination for the Tempo Gallery, which will be discontinued as a space for showing the works of contemporary regional artists after this show.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *