Sculpture, Paintings Grapple With Mysteries, Memories

Have you ever fallen in a dream and landed in your own bed? You suddenly wake up and are relieved that it was only a dream. Logically you were always in bed but some part of you went somewhere because you still have a quickly fading memory of the experience.

Two shows at the Graham Gallery Raw Spaces grapple with spirit, matter, myth, dreams, and memory. Robin Speas’ “Body and Soul” at the Albuquerque United Artists Raw Space and Anthony Evanko’s “Paintings in Works on Paper” in the South Raw Space, are both rich offerings to the eye and mind.

Primordial goddess images tens of thousands of years ago were rendered in clay and used in long-forgotten rituals. Creation myths are filled with clay figures which receive the breath of life. Refined yet apparently unfinished by the hand of God, Robin Speas’ sculptures speak of impermanence and raise personal hence universal questions and doubts. Spea’s life size figures tell stories ancient, new, cosmic and cultural. A red clay figure lies on her black with her cast concrete feet bound to the surface of a low table in “Body and Soul.” A spirit figure constructed of chicken wire is emerging from the torso. It is either the soul awakening at death or it is the soul about to embark on an astral journey while the host sleeps.

“Caryatids” with its four female figures supporting a roof is both architectural history and community metaphor.

Speas uses humor and pathos to protest our utter disregard and lack of compassion for factory-raised and processed food animals in “Pig.”

A technical and spiritual tour de force is “Menagerie.” This is a chicken wire masterpiece. Magically intertwined are a zoo full of transparent animals. This work beautifully states that animals are also spiritual beings and deserve our highest respect.

This entire exhibition of sculpture is remarkable and can not be praised highly enough.

In Anthony Evankos’ show we are greeted by beautifully painted large abstract expressionist canvases which feel like early Robert Rauschenberg and small drawings which remind me of the works of Georges Seurat, the 19th-century post-impressionist. In “Shrine of the Goddess,” veiled forms dance across the surface of the canvas. A female figure reminiscent of the ancient Venus of Willendorf floats on the left side while to the right there are forms which may indicate the remains of a temple. “Child Play” is a whimsical painting that calls up childhood perceptions.

Evanko uses loosely painted rhythmically placed white shapes that act as windows of light in “Scant Tradition.” Male and female figures dissolve into and emerge from a dreamlike background. This work could have been painted on a cave wall or on the side of a cliff. It is both ancient and contemporary. All of Evankos’ works look like vague memories of places and events. The forms and figures float in a horizonless and nebulous atmosphere. This isolation in space gives them a special energy like ritual objects.

Both of these shows represent personal artistic statements that ask universal questions about the true nature of reality and spirit. They are both powerful exhibitions well worth a long visit.

Anthony Evanko’s “Paintings and Works on Paper” runs through March 8th at the Graham Gallery Raw Space. “Body and Soul” runs through March 26 at the AUA (Graham Gallery) Raw Space on Sixth and Central NW, Albuquerque.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           --Wesley Pulkka

RIO/Albuquerque Journal/March 3, 1994