Use the force, Lukas

Bobby Lukas

Bobby Lucas tries to explain what his art is all about.

Bobby Lucas tries to explain what his art is all about.

Photo By David Robert

Bobby Lukas is a shaggy-haired, clean-shaven, round-faced 26-year-old. He was born and raised in Reno, and for the last three years, he has worked at the Pneumatic Diner as a cook. He is also amateur curator for the diner and organizes group shows for up-and-coming local artists.

Now it’s his turn for the spotlight, and 10 of his paintings hang in the Truckee Meadows Community College’s Red Mountain Gallery as proof. Recent Works is Lukas’ first solo exhibit. It’s comprised mostly of large paintings ranging in size from 4 feet by 4 feet up to 5-by-8.

Each painting contains sprawling legible and unreadable text. The words don’t mean anything to Lukas; as random words popped into his mind, he committed them to canvas.

The self-taught artist loves the look of cursive script, yet he writes most of these words illegibly. The emphasis is placed on the movement of the thick, black contours the text creates across the canvas. These hard, fast lines are made with charcoal or oil pastels, conveying energy to the works.

Flags, arrows, telephone poles, stars and airplanes are some of the objects crudely drawn and painted on the canvas. Lukas picks these items from his environment and things in the world that intrude into his consciousness. One piece has images of flame-engulfed crashing airplanes, gas pumps and price tags.

Lukas said he painted the untitled piece in response to the beginning of the war against Iraq, and it represents how everything in this world is for sale.

House paint fills in the jagged spaces and cartoon-like shapes. He paints in earthy tones—browns, tans, grays and sky-blues recur in many of the works. Lukas explores the paint by smearing, scratching and layering. In general, though, he makes no attempt to communicate depth or dimension.

Lukas explores a couple different styles in Recent Works. Several paintings have an electric, chaotic force about them. Others have a more controlled appearance with sprawling text lines dividing fields of blended colors and creating the feel of a two-dimensional landscape.

“Sometimes I think I have found my style, and I want to keep on working and developing it, but then something else pops up, and I just don’t want to paint like that anymore.”

Lukas takes criticism where he can find it, learning from anyone who’s willing to teach—even at his own opening reception. A couple of professional artists who visited offered him opinions and support. He received advice on techniques of stretching canvas, and was questioned about the logic behind signing or not signing his name to finished works.

“The only and best critique I ever had,” came at the reception, he said.

Not one to gather moss, Lukas considers the Red Mountain show “closure,” and he’s headed off in new directions with his art. He’s begun working on more sculptural art, building several 2 feet by 2 feet boxes to paint on. They are wood with wood supports and stand off the wall. It’s a whole different kind of surface for him to explore.

“It is kind of weird because they are so unrelated to what I have here at TMCC," he said with a smile.