Mark Bardinas | Jobert Cruz | Mark Nativo
November 05 - 26, 2022
Painting, in its long tradition, centered upon the representation about something in the world—a credible depiction of reality. When that role was usurped by the camera, the artists shifted their focus on rendering aspects of reality that the eye would be hard-pressed to see: the action of light on surfaces (Impressionism), the progress of motion in space (Surrealism), and even the internal thoughts and feelings of the artists themselves (Expressionism). In a way, painting became a tool to bring to surface the hidden, the barely noticed, the submerged.
More than a century after these innovations, artists now have to contend with the omnipresence of the screen, how it purports its own (digital) reality with the proliferation of images and their simultaneity. In this three-man show, Defacements, Mark Bardinas, Jobert Cruz, and Mark Nativo question the nature—and the value—of these images, particularly how we seem to be controlled by them, particularly from the endless scroll of social media. Painting, in this context, becomes an act of tempering, interrogating, as well as subverting these images, squarely confronting what perpetually insists in occupying our attention and day-to-day lives.
The works of Bardinas, for instance, directly quote pixelations, color bars, and image breaks of screens, as if to emphasize the artificiality of the environments purported in the photos and videos we consume without thought: nothing is ever what it appears to be. Cruz, on the other hand, seems to be working with existing images devoid of context, similar to stock photos, affixing them as autonomous subject matter on canvas. Nativo, presenting a kind of collage, decides upon a surfeit of images, particularly those from art history, in the singular space of the canvas, allowing for the simultaneous juxtaposition of the painting genres, from still life to portraiture to abstraction.
What is present in all of the works is the refusal to share anything by way of the biography of the artists, counterflowing against the earnest oversharing in social media of the minutiae of everyday life. Even the figures that occupy their work also don’t risk exposure and identification. In the paintings of Nativo, the faces are either averted or defaced. In Bardinas, they are hooded or hidden by an emoticon or a digital folder. While the viewer can still make out the faces of the figures in the works of Cruz, they are foreign and inaccessible—characters in what feels like dream sequence. Whatever narratives these paintings have may only be glimpsed at, deduced, speculated.
Defacements provides the viewer an opportunity to see the respective strengths of the artists. The works, after all, are representative of the themes that Bardinas, Cruz, and Nativo have been pursuing for quite some time. Collectively, they constitute a contemporary engagement with how our thinking—and by extension, creating art—has been structured by our visual culture, using its tool of fragmentation as an instrument of critique and allowing the medium of painting to bring a sense of coherence, story, and human insight to the never-ending stream of images.
-Carlomar Arcangel Daoana