Critics’ Picks

Conrad Ruiz, Red bull (G2 Series Pro), 2012, watercolor on canvas, 52 x 77 1/2".

Conrad Ruiz, Red bull (G2 Series Pro), 2012, watercolor on canvas, 52 x 77 1/2".

San Francisco

Conrad Ruiz

Jessica Silverman Gallery
488 Ellis Street
October 26–December 8, 2012

Dominant artistic means have changed since the 1960s, when a healthy penchant for all things experimental first drew the art world’s sun-loving dreamers to Southern California to draw inspiration from its beaches and freeform scene. A similar easygoing ethos can be found in Los Angeles-based artist Conrad Ruiz’s latest show “Juice.” Known for his vibrant large-scale and often comical watercolors, in the current exhibition Ruiz dips his toes into the deep end of abstraction.

In Punch Monster (all works cited, 2012), a flurry of hatch marks in sanguine hues of crimson evokes the dynamism of a cresting wave––think Moses meets Malibu. Ruiz’s compositions evince a sensibility reminiscent of fellow Angeleno Raymond Pettibon’s iconic watercolors depicting monstrous waves and solitary surfers. And like Pettibon, Ruiz has an interest in the oceanic that draws on a heady mix of pop sensibility and sublimated eroticism. With titular nods to pornographic slang and energy drinks—e.g., Passion squirt, Red bull (G2 Series Pro)—Ruiz’s studies of watery swells falls somewhere between the seminal and the ambrosial.

And yet, amid the explosive ebb and flow there are fleeting moments of relative calm. Bomb slide, with its striated washes of blues and reds, echoes the slick sheen of briny tide pools. Here, Ruiz is at his most abstract and revelatory, where the forms of his waves are given over to the caprice of his watercolors.