Layers of meaning

Jack Alvarez, “Traveling Show,” mixed media, 2003.

Jack Alvarez, “Traveling Show,” mixed media, 2003.

There seems to be a fairly universal feeling around town that the Second Saturday art walks are a good thing. The concept works; art lovers come out, and people who wouldn’t normally set foot in a gallery participate in the walks simply because they’re accessible and pretty dang fun. But there’s an interesting trend: Summer, the season one might think would bring the crowds out in droves, is surprisingly slow. Everyone’s gone, mostly on vacation. So, many galleries close for August, the slowest month.

But not everyone leaves or avoids the brutal heat and stays indoors, and not all galleries close down.

Bucking the trend is the Exploding Head Gallery. Not only is it open this month and throwing its usual Second Saturday reception, but it also has a really good show up during August that is worth staying in town and braving the sun for. New work by Gloria Sanchez Jackson and a group of paintings titled “Full Circle” by Jack Alvarez grace the walls of the space.

Alvarez’s work is non-representational and seeks to strip away conventional shapes and symbols. There is an exploration of sorts of indigenous icons and a desire to create language based solely on imagery. There are often thickly painted, broad-brush-stroked backgrounds that stand in contrast to the tight, carefully rendered shapes in which Alvarez places meaning. The result of his exploration is open to interpretation, and the viewer isn’t left with a feeling that there is only one correct reading.

Jackson’s paintings are nothing like Alvarez’s but complement them nicely. Her approach is more organic. Flowers and leaves are often embedded in layers of gel medium and a mixture of gold leaf to create lush and deep imagery. Text is often placed among the foliage and gold leaf, adding a written meaning that parallels the visual content. What’s interesting is the play between the purity of nature in the earthy elements of the leaves mixed with the metallic aspect of the gold leaf that reads of modernity and wealth; even the description of gold leaf has a sort of oxymoron slant.

So, there’s at least one good show to walk to this Saturday.