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Diverse backgrounds
Mechanized Underground
Through Aug. 27 at Creative Spirit
Art Gallery
820A Lake Baldwin Lane


Don't let the title of this exhibit mislead you: The work of the three artists represented here — Christopher "Tobar" Rodriguez, Nyahzul and Brian Adams — is not mechanized (or mechanical) in any way. In fact, the pieces that make up this exhibit were created using fairly traditional media — oil, acrylics, spray paint, pen and ink.

Adams combines comic-book-style illustration with some painterly techniques to create bright, visually jarring images. In a three-part series of detailed acrylic and ink drawings, for instance, he portrays a series of disembodied arms, flesh and bone protruding from where they were cut from the body. The pieces show the aftermath of a painful accident each has been through — one has been stabbed and slashed; another is being broken in half by the grasp of a powerful arm that fractures the ulna and radius protruding from the skin; the fingers of the third are mangled and blown to smithereens. (These are titled, respectively, "The Hand That Thought It Was a Surgeon," "The Hand That Thought It Was a UFC Fighter" and "The Hand That Thought It Was Holding a Longer Wick.") Each piece by Adams is hyper-detailed — bits of flesh, bone and hair painstakingly drawn in the hand portraits, and similar attention to minutiae is apparent in his other works in the show as well.

The works by Nyahzul, by contrast, are far less detailed or controlled. The subjects in both her photo collages and her oil paintings are somewhat childish and bear bland expressions; they represent lonely women and girls in bleak but absurd landscapes. In one painting, "Belonging as I Scan My Skeleton," a dark-haired woman with a corpselike complexion is posed against a dark background with a skeleton behind her and an X-ray of a rabbit atop her head. Oddly, rabbits seem to be a recurring theme in her work — in the painting called "Rapture," a woman wears what appear to be rabbit ears while staring wistfully at an empty white bench.

The third artist, Christopher Rodriguez aka Tobar, uses spray paint, paper and acrylics to create street-inspired collage art: In "A Creative Kid Inside/Out," a faceless stencil of a boy in a black-and-white-striped shirt meets the world with a cloud of black spray paint that envelops everything in front of him; in "Temptation 2 B," two illustrated portraits — one male, one female — are set against collages of magazine ads and images of "pretty" people. The face of each subject is obscured — the male with an eye patch, the female with dark streaks underneath each eye — as if to obscure physical beauty.

On opening night, curator Brad Biggs explains that his goal was to put together a show representative of the diversity of artistic styles found in Orlando's underground arts scene. If diversity was what he was striving for, he certainly found it in these three. Unfortunately, with no artists' statements, save from Nyahzul, and little visual unity in the show, the message is difficult to discern and the impact on the viewer somewhat chaotic.

— Erin Sullivan

Playing off the grid
New works by Rick Jones
Through Sept. 8 at Taste
717 W. Smith St.

Abstract urbanscape painter Rick Jones has spent the last five years or so as an active artist, collaborator and supporter of the Orlando arts community. This impromptu display of nine new works at Taste restaurant in College Park will likely strike those familiar with his compositions as something altogether different; it's as if his typical geometrical pieces have been whirled about. In addition to more light and vivid colors, there's a sense of movement and freedom achieved by Jones' looser hold on the grid.

Even in March, when Jones held a solo show, Deep Field, at Stardust Video & Coffee, critic Richard Reep wrote on his website that the title piece "combines geometries with a loose orthagonality integrating an angle that is neither 45 nor 60 degrees but somewhere in between, the resulting facets are uniformly dark or light with tones either purely white nor purely black."

He's broken away from that uniformity in this show, which consists of small graphite drawings and acrylic paintings. Fresh from a trip to New York, Jones says he whipped out the pieces in a period of calm creativity. None of them are titled, and they pop out in the narrow room that serves as a gallery near the front entrance — it's cozy if not conducive to far-away perspectives.

In Jones' cityscapes in black, white and shades of gray, the horizon rises and falls with what appears to be differing high-rise structures, and the forefront conjures a slice of urban jungle. There are multitudes of lines and angles that cross and intersect, in addition to the occasional asymmetrical mass that suggests form, such as a tree or a
shadowy figure.

The acrylics also depart from uniformity. On the widest canvas, the colors and subject matter change from the left to the right side, suggestive of a landscape; a tall, dense structure appears to be flanked by "scenes" in green and blue set against a white background. In a small, square painting, black outlines are thick and close up, like an architectural detail of a New York City apartment building; therein, a block of intense purple imparts drama — it's just another story in the big city of life.

There's warmth in these works that makes them breathe and gives a sense that they've been released from their trappings.

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June 16, 2021


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