“I didn’t do any work for five, six years,” Anthony Arevalo said recently. “I was at the Bike Project. I’m not good at balancing multiple things. So when I was there, I was all in.”
The artist was so dedicated to the Reno Bike Project, the local bicycle-oriented nonprofit organization, that, for that time, he put all of his energy into the nonprofit and made no artwork. But, when he stopped working at the RBP, he decided it was time to dive headfirst back into making art.
He went from creating no artwork to a sudden ubiquity in the valley. The artist currently has a duo exhibition with Erik Burke, called The Wall Between Us, on display at the Under the Rose Brewery. He also has artworks in the sprawling Reused + Recycled = Art exhibition at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Knowledge Center. And he has a solo exhibition titled We Share a Thing at the Hub Coffee Roasters on Riverside Drive for the duration of August.
It’s been about 18 months since he left the RBP, and like an athlete getting back into shape, he said it took him about a year to get back into practice.
The title We Share a Thing is a reference to a song by the band Cloud Nothings, but it also refers to the autobiographical inspirations of each of the dozen mixed media assemblages in the exhibition, each of which was inspired by a particular person and an experience that Arevalo shared with them. Viewers with an eye toward art history might be reminded of the American sculptor Joseph Cornell’s boxes, in which carefully composed collections of found objects create singular dioramas.
Arevalo’s sculptures combine found objects with sometimes heavily crafted and sanded wood. A recurring object found in most of these sculptures are trophies, often inexpensive ones given to child athletes—for things like “most improved” on the second grade soccer team.
“I found a bunch of old trophies, and I was just going to throw them away,” he said. “But then I thought, I really like these forms. I think I can use them.”
The trophies include birds and winged figures making unmistakable gestures of victory and triumph.
“That worked with the idea of paying homage to people that I had these experiences with,” he said. The trophy was an accessible symbol, a way to commemorate and celebrate the people honored in each sculpture.
The piece “She Covered Her Eyes and Turned Away” features three motorcycle trophies, toy-sized motorcycle riders, with front wheels kicked up and appearing to drive into and destroy a wooden plank. It’s an immobile assemblage that creates the illusion of loud, violent motion. The title is a reference to Arevalo’s mother’s terrified reactions to his grandfather’s motorcycle races in the 1970s. Arevalo’s grandfather was also a carpenter, who worked with power tools, and that career is honored by the action of the motorcycles in “She Covered Her Eyes,” as well as in another, more serene piece, “Papa,” which proudly displays lumber crayons, stacked wood and a motorcycle trophy in a very Cornell-like fashion.
Another piece, “Tim Blake is an Audiologist,” an ode to the Reno audiologist and musician, contains very rough, jagged, splintery wood, with nails poking out of it.
“I find it interesting that Tim has this very professional job, but then I see him at rock ’n’ roll shows, or hang out with him at his house, and that rawness is there all the time with him, but Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, he goes to his real job,” said Arevalo.
Even though the work is intensely autobiographical, Arevalo hopes that viewers will appreciate the work aesthetically, and perhaps be intrigued by the narrative titles and hidden symbolic importance, or at least enjoy the contrast between carefully crafted sculptures made from seemingly haphazard materials, and the precious, loving presentation of rough and raw objects.