Domingo Barreres

Howard Yezerski

In Domingo Barreres’ dynamic compositions, floating spirals, disks, ovals, and cones seem to levitate in atmospheric tissues of light. Working with dark and light contrasts as opposed to color, Barreres infuses the black backgrounds of his richly worked canvases with a ghostly light; indeed they seem to pulse with tension between matter and antimatter. Barreres is a cosmogonist whose speculations on the chaotic beginnings of creation inspire his borrowing of imagery from photographs of the trajectories of subatomic particles during collision. He also pays homage to timeless mysteries, myths, and symbols of human creation, from Cycladic idols and prehistoric carved stone divination balls to the halos that surround the heads of weeping Virgins in the churches of his native Valencia.

Barreres is a master of technique, a painterly alchemist who combines gesso, acrylic, dye, powder, and pigments over a plaster base to create his highly wrought surfaces. Careful sanding, bleaching, and varnishing result in illusions of volume and space, solid and void. An imposing rectangular canvas entitled Ancestral Haunts/Alien Aristocracy, 1991, is dominated by four interconnected spirals. Emerging from a dark ground with varying degrees of luminosity, the spirals resemble subatomic particles as well as organic patterns suggesting prehistoric fossils. White and honey-toned auras emanate both from the spirals and from the void. Small, meticulously painted cones mingle with an ascending group of platelet-shaped pods. These delicate, organic entities ascend to the upper portions of the canvas, functioning as a metaphor for growth. Vestiges of honeycombs provide octagonal packages through which the pods generate and regenerate, and a mystical white light penetrates through all of the geometric configurations as if in an ecstatic burst of primal energy. An affinity with Ross Bleckner’s numinous works, as well as with Terry Winters’ more biomorphic abstractions, is combined here with Barreres’ Spanish baroque sensibility.

In Ancestral Haunts/Alien Aristocracy II, 1991, the stock spiral and cone forms are joined by floating eggs, one of which is emblazoned with a splayed cross. The cross and egg, blurred by veils of paint, recall the Holy Crusades and the holy blood, adding an aura of Christian mythology to an otherwise purely geometric reality, while a double-curved, bladelike form alludes to cosmic creation and annihilation. Thinly painted spirals open out and down, surrounded by pods, octagons, and an ink-black central cone. This sensuous composition of basic blacks, browns, and white tones is balanced with gentle nuances of ultramarine blue, and is pierced by a powerful white light.

Barreres’ universe is free of narrative and figuration, and in all of his canvases, as well as in the more delicate smaller works on paper, the sense of the mystery associated with the night sky suggests an ancient and timeless longing for the divine.

Francine Koslow Miller