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Indepth Arts News:

"Salomon Huerta: Paintings"
2001-05-12 until 2001-07-08
Austin Museum of Art
Austin, TX, USA

Born in Tijuana and based in Los Angeles, Huerta is best known for his enigmatic portraits of anonymous subjects who sit or stand with their backs to the viewer. His work was included in the 2000 Biennial of the Whitney Museum of American Art and has been exhibited in the United States, Mexico, and Europe. The Austin Museum of Art exhibition will be the first major exhibition of his paintings in Texas.

While his riveting works recall the bright palettes and streamlined compositions of earlier California painters Richard Diebenkorn and Edward Ruscha, Huerta reinvents conventional elements of Pop art, Color Field painting, and portraiture to engage the viewer in unexpected, ironic ways. By eliminating his subjects - facial features, their cultural origins and other attributes, Huerta creates a vacuum that viewers are compelled to fill with their own perceptions, biases, and experiences.

Huerta's subjects are people he encounters on the streets of Los Angeles and who agree to pose in his studio. His oil paint renderings portray his models without ornamentation in functional, utilitarian dress. Placed against glossy, colorful backgrounds in cool, contrasting colors that evoke contemporary fashion layouts and billboard advertisements, Huerta's austere subjects stand or sit squarely, heads close-shaved, arms at their sides, their bodies filling up the picture plane. The smooth surfaces of Huerta's works are characterized by a clean, hard finish, in which traces of the artist's hand are as elusive as the individuals he paints.

Some portraits depict their stiffly standing subjects head-to-toe from the back, such as the six-foot-tall man in Untitled Figure (2000), shown in a bright blue shirt and crisply creased khakis against a moss colored background. Other works show the sitter only from the nape of the neck up, such as the bald, black head against a field of brilliant red in Untitled Head (1999).

Also in the exhibition will be work from a new series of exquisitely small paintings of the exteriors of houses that Huerta photographs while driving through typical Southern California neighborhoods. As in his portraits, Huerta's method is to relentlessly rip away all identifying details about these homes, leaving only shiny, ambiguous façades.

Salomón Huerta: Paintings is fifth in AMOA's ongoing New Works series, which seeks to provide innovative, emerging, and mid-career artists from the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean with the opportunity to present their work in a museum setting. A catalogue with an essay by Ferrer will accompany the exhibition.

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