Nude for a Prude
How fortunate I felt when Fernando Reyes accepted my request for a visit to his Oakland East Bay art studio, to experience more of his work, and see his creative setting. What a great opportunity to see the technique and true color of some of the pieces I had admired on his website. Particularly his Scape Above series (including Dusk, and Blue Skies), as well as Red Pair D’anjou. Jeff, my friend who was my portal to Fernando’s work plans to join me for the adventure.
This is an extension of my recent self-guided gallery hops, with the aim of finding an original piece for our prominent family room wall. What is always so wonderful about an artistic quest or creative journey is that it’s often the unexpected that ends up being most meaningful and memorable. That would proove to be true on this day.
We pull off 580 into Fernando’s studio neighborhood, and are immediately immersed in the strong visual character of Jingletown, as it’s called. Rustic, distressed, and still remaining (at least visually) true its industrial roots. It has a bit of the SF Hunter’s Point/Mission bay vibe. Clearly, the area is now largely inhabited by artists, unlike the gentrified live/works in SOMA. We pass multiple mosaics, along the road, liberally applied to the building walls, and then, not surprisingly pass the Mosaic Institute and Studio Supply. I really want to explore this place, but we have somewhere to be, so I table it for later. Thankfully, CJ finishes his East Bay tax meeting in time, and meets us out front.
Fernando buzzes us in, and we enter the grounds of the very interesting multiple studio building he inhabits. There is a garden of potted plants and cacti just outside his entrance. It already feels very welcoming and homey. The moment we set foot in his studio my eyes land on a piece that is sitting on his easel, near the entrance. Is it kismet? I gasp (yes, out loud), as my reaction to it is so visceral. The piece is called Details III.
I first respond to its overall palette and balance. The colors are vastly appealing and very much in “my” palette: mustard, warm greys, dusty blue, dark rust, etc. Slowly, the subject emerges before me, an amazing collage of deconstructed male nudes.
Fernando shares that all the segments are crops from his drawings, and woodblock prints. I immediately recognize the 2 largest pieces, from Les Hommes, which Jeff had recently purchased a print of. They include the back of a head, and a large, expressive hand that tells a world of stories. There are also more sensual parts captured, a beautiful lower back and butt, and muscular arm and chest crop. And, there is the elbow (top row, 3rd segment from right), which makes visual allusions to much more (a nod to Georgia O’Keefe?).
I realize that despite having gone to his studio with a nature or still life in mind, I was really drawn into this piece and its style. He shares with us that he had just created these pieces, mostly for the 14th Annual Erotic Art Fair Weekend in Los Angeles/West Hollywood the following week. It’s a new style and approach for him. He uses the good parts of existing drawings, and prints that are otherwise not ideal, sellable or usable. This particular piece is of all male subjects. But, he also has one which is all women (Details I), and a smaller, square one (Details II). I have to literally fight my preferential instinct towards square formats. My Bauhaus design background haunts me in this way.
Taking a break from this wonderful surprise, we peruse his studio, as he pulls out countless drawers with countless drawings and stories to accompany each. What I thought would be a 20 minute visit, balloons into a wonderful 2 or so hours… and were it not for an afternoon appointment, he would have had to give us the boot. Fernando enjoys talking about his work, and does so eloquently and passionately. Amazingly, he used to be a banker, but left that career to live as an artist. The upside of that is that he has as clear a grasp on the left brain perspective of his industry as the right.
He also has some smaller urban paintings of Jingletown. They are very clean, with minimal paint application visible, and appear almost photographic from a distance. I love them, but they were not of the scale I want for our wall. (They will be my next purchase someday, if they’re still around and I have any dough left.) In the corner we see some pieces that look almost like multi-colored fish scales, which are made up of VERY thick oil strokes. Fernando shares that they are made out of the remaining paint daubs from his actual process. How beautifully random!
Afterwards we grab a bite at Tiki Tom’s. It’s perfectly eccentric. Painted surf boards line the ceiling, and it sits right on the river/inlet. Think edgy Jimmy Buffett. Their BBQ pulled pork and french dip sandwiches are redonculous! GO! Now!
Long story short-er, Fernando allows us to enjoy Details III in our home for 2 days “on approval”, to make sure it works in our intended space, and to “sleep on it”. Since he intends to take it to LA, we know we have to make a quick decision, lest it be purchased by someone there, and lost to us forever. We realize how special it is that both of us love the piece so much, and appreciate how unique it is. So, I make the purchase…my first substantial, original piece of art. It is truly one-of-a-kind, as are all of the drawings included.
Literally, each day I discover something new in it…a texture, image, or color. I also jokingly renamed it 10 Nipples, since that there are! This is all quite ironic, considering I recently shared that I didn’t really care for “nudes” in my home, and yet this piece that we so love just happens to be. Funny how that works. And, there are plenty of squares in the design to keep me happy, even if the overall format is landscape.
Upcoming Open Studio
East Bay OPEN STUDIOS 2009
JINGLETOWN Art Walk
June 6 & 7 – 13 & 14, ’09
11:00am – 6:00pm
Over 25 artists exhibiting
Fernando Reyes Fine Art
Ford Street Studios
2934 Ford Street, Oakland, CA 94601
An Aside: Galleries to Visit
(These recommendations augment those already profiled here.)
Arthaus, @ 411 Brannan St.
Director James Bacchi was very helpful, and gave me a passionate, engaging tour.
Hang Art, @ 556 Sutter St
And, be sure to check out the annex across the street.