Full disclosure: 1. My Latin name is Ferox, a variant of the Latin Ferus, the title of the new exhibition at Eggman and Walrus Art Emporium, which I prefer to translate as “courageous, high-spirited and warlike,” rather than the more negative “wild, uncultivated and uncivilized.” 2. I used to date one of the show’s nearly 30 artists, whose work I abstain from reviewing for ethical reasons, not because he broke up with me. 3. Ferus is really, really good.
According to curator Jared Antonio-Justo Trujillo (who also has work in the show), the exhibition’s title doesn’t suggest a theme; rather, he chose the title after watching The Cool School, a documentary about Los Angeles’ famed Ferus Gallery. History recalls the ’60s venue for revolutionizing and popularizing the LA scene, particularly through the works of upcoming avant-garde artists such as Ed Rushca, Wallace Berman and Andy Warhol.
“The only thing I hit on was a group of people doing really cool, cutting-edge work,” Trujillo said, “artists doing innovative work while New York was the powerhouse.”
Trujillo sees Eggman and Walrus as showcasing innovative artists in a similarly overlooked art scene.
“It’s the same thing I’m trying to do: bring together really good work that’s different than what you see every day,” Trujillo explained on a recent Sunday, standing in Eggman and Walrus’ spare upstairs location. “Do you see this in Santa Fe?” he asked, gesturing at the provocative and varied works around him. “I don’t.”
For a show with a title that implies a lack of refinement, the work is quite deliberate and measured. I’d even venture to say that their work does have consistent themes: animals, anthropomorphization, juxtaposition and reappropriation, to name a few. Additionally, the whole exhibition is dedicated to recently deceased Santa Fe artist James Lofton, with a number of pieces honoring his work.
Works of particular note in a very notable show are Prakash’s colorful and subversive paintings, including a Geronimo-as-Christ that seems informed by Prakash’s tattoo work, with the attendant East Asian lettering; Tanya Story’s female, furry and feathered wearable midsections; Jason Salazar’s graffitied buffalo, a welcome update to a Southwestern tableau; Grady Gordon’s evocative and decidedly creepy monotypes of ghostly conglomerates (a nice counterpart to Zac Scheinbaum’s evocative and decidedly creepy watercolors and inks of the same); gallery intern Leah Gonzales’ watercolor, charcoal and colored pencil renderings of bound and maddened women; and perhaps best capturing the show’s title, Elizabeth Sobel’s eerie lithographs of anxious wolfmen and effervescent deerwomen.
Trujillo refreshingly updates his own work for this show with what he calls his “art-school series,” dedicated to his heroes. In one tall archival pigment print on panel, he combines an Andy Warhol “Mao” print with Marcel Duchamp’s already-combined “Bicycle Wheel” (a wheel attached to a painted stool). In a two-part of the same medium, Trujillo places a crazed rooster side by side with pop-art staple Warhol. “I saw this chicken in a book called Extraordinary Chickens, and I said, “It looks like Andy,” Trujillo said with his signature candidness.
He was particularly candid about his faith in the show’s artists, and I believe he has cause. All of the work is atypical and creative. Like Newsweek critic Peter Plagens said of the Ferus Gallery in The Cool School, “Yeah, we’ve got something that’s different out here…and that’s cultural ambition.”
Ferus has cultural ambition and a lot of talent, too.