Charcoal and ink on paper
Since I first encountered the work of Hugo Navarro, I have had to rethink these issues including what art is even about, and how it is best discussed. That should already be a sign that we are dealing with a very special body of work.
One of the most immediately recognizable distinctions of Navarro's work is the concentration in many of his pieces on a small number of colors. Many of his most powerful works deal with the same four or five colors, a bright sky blue, golden yellow, white, black and sometimes red. Even his most wildly-colored pieces are always centered around a single-color backdrop. This tight control of the color-palette makes it clear to the viewer that these pieces are not haphazard bursts of activity, but rather that they are focused, intimate studies of moods and ideas. But beyond that, Navarro's loyalty to blue and yellow seems to be an expression of the basic fundamentals of life, or possibly the eternal elements of the universe. In truth, the only other comparable intimate connection I can recall between a painter and a color is El Greco and the blue that brings his View of Toledo to life.
Navarro's pen and brush strokes are also quite distinctive throughout his oeuvre. The wiggles in his straight lines, the roughness of his circles, his hand gives his pieces an unmistakeable character of both painstaking care as well as a warm playfulness.
But probably the two most distinctive aspects of Navarro's work are the seemingly limitless range of his subjects and the multiplicity of perspectives that reside in each piece. Navarro explains that the subjects of his work "relate to light, the force of nature, the universe's natural laws, economics, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, astrophysics, and evolution."
Charcoal and ink on paper
His Untitled charcoal drawing from 2009 is a great example of his deceptively simple layouts. My first reading of the piece was that a seated woman was bound to a cave wall, her leg jutting out towards us, her arms pulled back behind her, her hair extending outwards in fright because her captor is returning. But my second reading showed me that the woman was not bound by any ropes, or anything at all. Rather she seemed to be attached to the rock wall, sticking out from it but still a part of it. Possibly, she is a sculpture. But now, most recently, when I look at it, I see it's a male torso emerging, and not from a rocky cave wall but from out of the clouds. And it's his hand that he's waving us back with, or shielding us with from the blinding splendor of the sun, not a foot.
It's entrancing how bare the scene seemed at first, and how after a little attention, the piece begins to pop with mysterious details out of which each viewer can find his or her own story.
"My work is difficult to understand from only one perspective, I know that. In every work the idea resides to be discovered. Infinite lines, shapes, equations, shadows, colors and my inner universe all take over."
Though Navarro has a particular meaning in mind when he creates his pieces, he is conscious of the variety of human experience and that his audience's understanding of his pieces may be more important than his own. What he expects of his audience, though, is that they will "take the time to discover the hidden details".
When I asked him about his style and techniques and what artists and styles he has been influenced by, he explained that in his studio he goes through "the hatching process of creation. I experience the 'letting go' of what has been learned. In other words I unlearn [what I know about other styles] in order to allow the new me to disengage from the surrounding consciousness of styles. I experiment and search for my pure core."
Regarding his bright and irresistibly exuberant canvas, Studio 56 #33, Navarro says, "This is my first large format on canvas. It was painted after my separation from my second wife and the beginning of my platonic love for Carmen. I love painting with that freedom."
|Seis flores (2009)|
Charcoal and ink on paper
The charcoal drawing of the six flowers or Seis flores gets its otherworldly beauty from its simplicity and its glow, as well from Navarro's playful lines and coloring.
"This is about my six brothers and me. We are seven all together. The black hole of life. I am the flower vase."
In Unresting blue, the whole canvas seems to be tossed up in the air and spinning. To me, the piece is about how a single leap by a frog affects so many different elements around it. A special point of interest in the canvas is where the frog's blue belly meets the black line. It creates a window-like effect onto a completely different scene, like a smaller painting within the painting. The smaller scene looks at a horizon where a luminous blue sky meets an ash-black terrain. And don't miss the cryptic patterns that are scratched onto many of the black strokes. Navarro calls them "trazado", and says they are rooted in mathematical concepts.
|Unresting blue (2009)|
Oil and acrylic on canvas
"I painted [Unresting Blue] after coming back to San Diego from Baja. I was outdoors on a beautiful canyon in South Park. The California blues that day were so deep around the woods. It was a lovely sunset, full of colors and the deep blue, resting on tree leaves both a part of, and embracing the quietude."
Navarro shot the two photos posted here during a trip to Baja California, "...on a little isolated beach where I spent almost three months alone, searching for answers about the first movement of mass in the space and evolution. Nature was my inspiration. They are part of a project of studying the universe which I know will never end."
|Studio 56 (2009)|
"I know I still have a long way to go in my work," Navarro says. "But I am in the process of evolution, of that I am certain."