Reyes | Finn is pleased to present Espers, the gallery’s fourth presentation and first solo exhibition of work by Oakland-based artist Rafael Delacruz (b. 1989, San Francisco), which will be on view from September 10–October 22, 2022. The exhibition will feature 11 new paintings on canvas by the artist, including eight large-scale works — the artist’s largest to date.
Delacruz has become known for his expressive paintings that suggest moments of surreal humor through sophisticated atmospheric mark-making. Scenes are rendered on the brink of abstraction; figures and forms freely flow in and out of focus. Discernible elements often come together to chronicle absurd interactions set against a backdrop of west-coast urban architecture. Recent works present the lush surrounding nature as a contrasting setting of mystery and discovery. Inspiration for Espers hinged upon time spent earlier this summer in the verdant Northern Californian landscape while in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts, where the artist completed the work for this exhibition.
The exhibition title takes its name from “The ESPers”, a trio of psychic-powered children from the dystopian anime and manga, Akira. In the hands of the artist, painting also operates in an extra-sensory mode as it becomes a means of recording that which evades — or complicates — common perception. “To me, ‘Espers’ can mean more than two things. Being at the Marin Headlands at night, I’ve noticed sound travels at a slower frequency. This phenomenonphenomena tricks my mind into cinematically imagining familiar objects floating in and out of my frame of reference. The notes of the wind, owl, fog, tree, fish, door knob, and washing machine start to create a tension that mirrors diegetic vs. non-diegetic sound.” says Delacruz.
Weeks nestled in the coastal wilderness revealed sounds only perceptible away from the city’s cacophony. Living and working in unfamiliar buildings of the Headlands Center for the Arts, saturated with their own complex history as a military campus, accumulated observations and memory triggers: Potato Heads, shards of Mexican pottery, pelican behavior, rattling windows and creaky floorboards, to the blurred darkness of nighttime. Delacruz highlights the dissonance that emerges from the built environment as it interrupts and displaces the natural energy and rhythms of the land. “Talking to my good friend Ian Maberley inspired me to realize the parallel between my own interpretation of Espers and its cultural definition within the media. I’ve been trying to connect that into the architecture of The Headlands Center of The Healing Arts,” says the artist.
Taking notes from the satirical modes familiar to cartoons and comic-books, Delacruz distorts and morphs images for his paintings — through digital and analogue means alike. Sketches are occasionally fed in and out of image processing software and then screen-printed onto the canvas — often setting the stage for the process to cycle again, resulting in a complex layering of drawings, brushstrokes, and ink. These transitional states are paralleled by figurative references to characters living a nomadic existence — cars, empty plots, or even just the gestural stroke of a shadowy figure. Favoring a wide-ranging style, Delacruz’s work manages to simultaneously achieve a sense of tranquility and dislocation. Nebulous suggestions coalesce into being with a deft vocabulary of brush work that further creates a sense of temporality and movement that runs throughout Delacruz’s body of work.