NEW ORLEANS, LA.- New Orleans Museum of Art
presents Wayne Gonzales: Light to Dark / Dark to Light, the artist's first solo museum show in the United States. This exhibition of paintings by nationally recognized Louisiana artist Wayne Gonzales spans from early portraits to never before seen work. Highlights range from paintings of New Orleans native Lee Harvey Oswald to the Louisiana Rigolets.
"It's a proud moment for New Orleans that a native son is returning home to have his first major U.S. exhibition here where his inspiration started," said NOMA Director Susan M. Taylor. "Wayne's first interaction with art was at NOMA and no doubt his exhibition will inspire young artists."
The exhibition features paintings depicting crowds, which Gonzales is well known for, including waiting crowds in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The newest painting is a large blue Seated Crowd completed this year, which depicts a passive audience in a movie theater. Gonzales will also paint two original murals on the walls of the galleries that will contrast idyllic scenes of nature with war images. Wayne Gonzales: Light to Dark / Dark to Light is organized by Miranda Lash, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at NOMA.
The title Light to Dark / Dark to Light reflects Gonzales's interest in painting within specific color spectrums, creating compositions that appear to dissolve upon closer inspection. The exhibition provides an overview of the ongoing themes in the Gonzales's career, including his interest in the mechanics of light and the dynamics of power, particularly as they are manifested in architecture and crowds.
"The New Orleans Museum of Art was the first place that I saw art and I am very pleased and honored to have this exhibition in New Orleans," Gonzales said.
The artist's complex relationship to his hometown of New Orleans crops up in a number of works presented. For example, Lee Harvey Oswald, who appears in Gonzales's Peach Oswald, 2001, was born in New Orleans and lived there in 1963, the year that President John F. Kennedy was shot.
"This is an opportunity for NOMA to highlight a Louisiana artist who has exhibited widely but not in his home state," said Lash. "The political issues that Wayne raises in his paintings: questions of conspiracy, how power is brokered, and how the masses are lead, resonate in a powerful way within the context of New Orleans, but also carry implications unto the global scene."
Gonzales's imagery is often drawn from images circulating in popular media: newspapers and magazines, as well as images pulled from the Internet. Breaking apart these images into components of light and shadow, Gonzales obscures the specific context of these images, and focuses instead on the subjects' conceptual and political resonance as typologies and historical icons.
The show opens with a room of Gonzales's crowd paintings, including the impressive large-scale triptych: Cheering Crowd, 2007. Surrounded by standing crowds, seated crowds, and waiting crowds, the viewer must question the motivations and circumstances that draw large numbers of individuals together. Waiting Crowd, 2007, for example, depicts a group waiting for help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The exhibition includes paintings of architectural spaces by Gonzales, which includes Oceana, 2005, depicting high-value resort real estate juxtaposed with Rigolets, 2006, an image of the strait along the boundary of the New Orleans, whose docks and bridges were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Nearby, White House, 2004, is juxtaposed with drawings of political leaders from the Bush administration. Several of these paintings and works on paper of politically charged people and places, are displayed against site-specific mural backdrops of idyllic landscapes and wartime imagery.
Wayne Gonzales was born in New Orleans in 1957. His work has been shown in various international venues including P.S.1 Center for Contemporary Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; the Fonds Régional d'Art Contemporain, Dôle; and the Consortium, Dijon, France. Gonzales is represented in public and private collections in the United States and Europe, most notably the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Neuberger Museum of Art. Gonzales lives and works in New York.