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El Mac
Mesa Contemporary Arts, Mesa, Arizona
Recommendation by Deborah Ross

El Mac, "Omayra and Sumer (after Loïs Mailou Jones)," 2014, aerosol on burlap, each 90 x 67"

Continuing through August 7, 2016

In Los Angeles and Phoenix, El Mac’s highly recognizable murals — with their tightly controlled ripples of spray paint — have added to the élan of the street art movement in both cities. The artist excels at the ultra-closeup, photorealistic depiction of ordinary people, all the while incorporating his signature contoured lines and deep shadows. The long white walls easily accommodate glowing, monumental works such as the 23-foot-wide “La Madre (The Mother),” which features glyphs by fellow street artist and periodic collaborator Retna as its background.

The show also sheds light on El Mac’s many influences, from John Singer Sargent to Laura Gilpin. Traveling from the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, “Aerosol Exalted” explores not just mural-related ideas, but also El Mac’s agility with reinterpreting classical religious tableaux for contemporary viewers. For instance, “Abraham and Isaac (after Piazzetta)” appears in three variously colored incarnations, in tribute to Giovanni Batista Piazzetta's “The Sacrifice of Isaac” (ca. 1715).

Another aspect of El Mac’s work emerges: his ability to reproduce his style on many surfaces. In this handful of paintings are scenes on linen, canvas, steel and wood. But it is his use of stretched burlap that most amazes. In “Omayra and Sumer (after Loïs Mailou Jones)” the texture of the surface combined with terraced lines of paint lends his distinctive pulsating quality to these paired faces of young women, sparking a narrative that is both touching and enigmatic.

Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum at Mesa Arts Center

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