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Carlos Loarca: Spirit Dogs, Painting the Past into the Present
Carlos Loarca gives a lecture.

SAN FRANCISCO.- San Francisco painter, Carlos Loarca is the recipient of an Individual Artist Grant from the Cultural Equity Grants through the Arts Commission of San Francisco. California, the culmination being a retrospective of his work at SomArts Cultural Center in San Francisco, Ca.

The exhibit spans 28 years , states Loarca. Being born in Guatemala he has grown up steeped in the cultures of the Mayan Indian and mestizo culture and all the colorful rituals and ceremonies those ensue. One in particular being the Day of the Dead, where Loarca remembers walking to the cemetery in the early morning hours, the townsfolk covered in huge flower wreaths to pay respect to their ancestors amid the profusion of flower draped tombs. Developing a deep respect and admiration for both cultures he found a way to combine his color drenched past with his present experiences through his work. Time and space connect the Mayan to the universe as it does in Carlos Loarca’s painting; combining the old with the new ; “painting has provided me with the opportunity to gather all this information into graphic forms. As I paint, I am very aware I am living my life today in the present and that moment has been there forever.”

The walls of the huge gallery of SomArts shimmered with color and energy as I walked from painting to painting , I was struck by the development of Loarca’s work; always using the same palette of true bright colors he has explored over his long career of 41 years . Geometric shapes along with the figure, integrating some aspect of the symbolic “spirit dog”. A legend of the ancient Mayan Indians of a dog who protects the town drunks, Loarca uses this image in part due to his own battle with alcohol and also to create a world of his own and beyond. “It was the mystery and the abstraction of the format of painting that intrigued me to find out what was going on in me ”, states Loarca. One of the highlights of Carlos Loarca’s exhibit is a huge mural that covers almost an entire wall of the gallery. Exquisite in creamy yellows , blacks and reds, It fairly crackles with energy ; the painting is divided into several panels ; almost impossible to take in in one fell swoop of the eyes because of it’s size and breadth. Two smaller bold paintings caught my eye in gorgeous rich avocados, blue purples and rich reds. Carlos Loarca’s newest works in the exhibit are several delicate paintings in a grouping along a side wall that are a little different in nature, maybe because of their delicacy and size. Different for Loarca; canary yellow with swirling lines. “The element of space is what dominates my present interest in painting. I paint a line on the surface I am working on. Whatever is behind it is space.”

Carlos Loarca’s painting career has spanned 40 some years . Born in 1937 he has lived in the United States since 1956. With exhibits and galleries too numerous to mention; exhibits that range from his home town of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala to the Biennale de Firenze . In 1999 at the International Maritime Organization , United Nations, London England , and Zarago, Spain in 1996 and in 1990 in St Petersburg , Russia to name just a few. He was director of San Francisco’s SomArts Gallery at South of Market Cultural Center, SomArts, from 1983-2003.

“It is a magnificent experience to see red for example and feel the strength of the colorful waves of the red in the light”- carlos loarca

The exhibit ran from April 3rd to April 24th.

Neila Mezynski

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