Group exhibit — Silverlens Galleries

Gathered Narratives

The heritability of artistic and creative skills is an intriguing concept that serves as a sideshow to Gathered Narratives, which features a single family blessed with an abundance of talent. The works of the Santos family— composed of Soler (b. 1960), Mona (b. 1962) and their children Luis (b. 1985), Carina (b. 1988), and Isabel (b. 1990)—are, for the first time, gathered in a single exhibition.

Curator Nilo Ilarde resisted grouping the works according to artist, making Gathered Narratives an opportunity to view their creative expressions in relation to, and independent of, each other. It’s tempting to compare the pictorial tendencies of five individuals bonded by blood (living and working under the same roof, to boot) the same way a child’s physical attributes are parceled out mere moments after birth (“he has his mother’s eyes”, “she has her father’s nose”).

Gathered Narratives is a birth of sorts and one might ask if Soler, the proud father, passed on to his daughters, Carina and Isabel, his fondness for layers upon layers of imagery. Are his additive abstract canvases of twigs and leaves—created by piling on medium after medium (paint, crayon, oil stick, and paint again) on a silkscreen print—the starting point for Carina’s book cutouts or Isabel’s mixed-media collages? Are Mona’s small paintings of unmade beds, rumples and creases rendered with photorealistic fidelity, the antecedents of Luis’s depiction of a corrugated galvanized iron sheet? Is this hyperawareness of texture and material a genetic trait shared by mother and son? Answering yes to any of these questions swings the pendulum toward nature in the nature/nurture discussion that swirls around talent.

Soler insists this isn’t the case. He knows whereof he speaks: his father is Mauro Malang Santos, an acclaimed painter of vivid and whimsical canvases of urban folk. Soler and his brother Steve, also an artist, grew up with several tenets that can be summarized as “do not imitate; find your own style; and sameness breeds boredom.” Soler does not invoke Malang as an influence. Instead he cites Gerhard Richter, David Salle, and Sigmar Polke. In the same way, Luis does not mention Soler or Mona. Instead, he cites Richard Serra and Robert Longo.

Gathered Narratives celebrates and reveals the idiosyncrasies of each artist, perhaps best illustrated by the collages of Carina and Isabel. The former is a bibliophile who, in a continuing series, appropriates images from books and pastes them onto playing cards. Carina’s focused mini-canvases (a deck of 52 cards constitutes one work) are mostly in black and white, contrasting with the random vibrancy of Isabel’s acrylic-and-graphite embellishments over reproductions of vintage comics. And yet, one can argue, no matter the difference in execution, the sisters’ pop-culture sensibilities belong to a common generational zeitgeist.

Meanwhile, Soler, Mona, and Luis heed their muses, old and new. Soler returns to his explorations of nature—twisted deadwood that he incorporates into abstract canvases and photographs of abandoned buildings. Mona, to flowers (she likes to say that she is enamored of this subject because it is “not what Soler paints”) and dreamers lying in their beds. Luis, to a goat’s skull—this time as a haunting anatomical triptych that exposes the beauty lurking in cranial depths—and footage taken from the Prelinger Archives, a collection of amateur films documenting historico-cultural moments.

Gathered Narratives doesn’t settle the question of whether artists are born or taught, but it does show that the Promethean fire of creativity, first stolen by Malang, burns bright to this day. — Sam Marcelo

Gathered Narratives
June 5 — July 5, 2014
Silverlens Galleries
Curated by Nilo Ilarde

Documentation by Luis Santos

— exhibit invite

— Gathered Narratives Limited Edition Catalogue

— Curator Nilo Ilarde setting up

— Volumes: I
— Volumes: II

— Volumes: III

— Creep

— Satellites

— Volumes: IV
— Volumes: V

— Volumes: VI

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