Laszlo and Diane Szaniszlo
Laszlo Szaniszlo and his wife, Diane, met in Paris in the mid 1970s. Laszlo, a Hungarian émigré, was working as a portrait artist on the classically romantic Parisian streets when he spotted Diane, a Reno native and UNR graduate, and a friend being chatted-up by a couple of other Hungarian guys. Laszlo put away his art supplies, and promptly moved in on their action. He quickly insinuated himself and turned on his fast-talking charm.
“It really interrupted my vacation plans,” jokes Diane.
The couple has been married for more than 30 years.
They’re both showing artwork in Then and Now, an exhibition opening on Sept. 2 and running through the end of the month at the downtown branch of the Washoe County Library. This will be Laszlo’s ninth exhibition at the museum. His first was in 1998.
The show boasts a diverse and eclectic range of materials and techniques. There are fast and loose colored pencil drawings and oil paintings and digital prints. There are artworks dated as far back as the 1980 oil painting “Man and Horse” and as-yet-untitled pieces that Laszlo had yet to finish a week before the show’s opening.
Though the materials and techniques are wide-ranging, animals feature heavily in all of Laszlo’s work. One piece in Now and Then, “Red Gazelle,” which depicts the eponymous creature, was exhibited at Laszlo’s first exhibit at the library 10 years ago. That show was so heavy on animal imagery, Laszlo titled it Animalia.
There’s a diverse menagerie depicted in Now and Then, ranging from the quasi-realistically rendered equine in “Man and Horse” to the critters in “The Survivors,” which are drawn with such loose, casual abstraction, and with such unlikely colors, that they defy easy identification.
“Are those cats?” a viewer might ask.
“They’re whatever you want them to be,” says Laszlo with a laugh.
But not all the pieces depict animals. The piece “D. X 2” consists of two altered photographs of Diane side-by-side. One is garishly hand-colored, the other digitally altered. It’s a decidedly Warholian piece.
Diane’s contributions to the show are a series of light switch panel-sized pine blocks adorned with prints of old photographs and colored to appear simultaneously antiquated and otherworldly. Like her husband, Diane works with an array of materials—watercolors, colored pencils, oil paints.
“Neither of us are purists,” says Laszlo. “We use the kitchen sink method.”
The title of the show refers to a number of pieces in the exhibit that are reworked details from older pieces that Laszlo felt dissatisfied with. Some of these enlarged details he altered digitally. Others, like “Blue Donkey” used older works as models.
There are a lot of donkeys in this exhibit. In addition to “Blue Donkey,” there’s “Four Donkeys,” another Warholian print.
Laszlo admits with a shrug that the repetitive use of the donkeys is subtly political.
“We love elephants too,” says Diane, “but not this year.”