Los Angeles

Jose Luis Cuevas

Silvan Simone Gallery

There is no shortage of desperate views this month. Eliot’s lady has a full chorus behind her discreetly mur­muring, “life, what cauchemar!” The current ploy, however, is irony and Cuevas self-defensively labels his gal­lery of mutilados and madmen, his catalogs of tortures, gruesome games, and deformities, and his self-portraits as various historical connoisseurs of agony, a “Horror Theatre.” Borrowing Gothic themes and Romantic attitudes, Cuevas perhaps has the notion of up­dating them with black humor. He is more successful, however, in the ortho­dox persona of the Divine Marquis, and manages to “extraire la beauté du mal” in some exquisite miniature and slightly bigger drawings in ink and wash, though his large works in the same media all seem to suffer from a non­expressive clumsiness and a surprising insensitivity to his materials. Using a sensuous, space-describing line, Cuevas most often draws figures in various humanoidal states of ugly bloat, obesity becoming in some dark way equivalent to insanity, bestiality, and other un­nameable evils. His Juana de Arco con dos Personajes Obesos is a small, beautifully composed and elegantly drawn piece, in which light and dark are played against each other with ex­pressive force. The Nina Mutilada, a large, heavy, and more savage concep­tion, seems merely awkward in its exe­cution of wash and unconvincing in its dependence on swollen shape and dis­figured face for impact. Cuevas’ tiny pictures for a bestiary and his catalog series of Deformaciones, Juegas, and Torturas demonstrates his sen­sitivity to line when used on a small scale, and contain some of his most blackly charming drawings. His works offend when horrific content is forced to carry the burden that should be the responsibility of technique.

––Nancy Marmer