Unique figures seem to come from an underground cartoonist’s lair in eRic Luplow’s paintings. Their very configuration seems to speak of an alternative universe. But it is not. It is the spirit of the Southwest, particularly Santa Fe, which is this artist’s home base. The works in the ironically titled solo exhibition, Brown to Gray, explode with vivid coloration and emotional warmth. This exhibition was on display at the Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum during May.
The artist’s previous art ventures with deep South Texas include exhibitions in Harlingen, McAllen and South Padre Island. His “Dia de los Muertos” mural may be seen in Harlingen’s historic downtown district.
Painting ideas that touch him, eRic (he prefers this nomenclature) says that he is inspired by life, and his works range from depicting the humor of the Texas dancehall to the spirituality of the early Native Americans. His watercolors are brought to life with brilliant hues that typify the Santa Fe experience. eRic seems to know his color theory; he deftly associates sets of colors with the subject he portrays. “Snake Dance,” depicting a backyard encounter with a seemingly aggressive and poisonous snake, demonstrates the use of strong color contrast. We see primary colors coupled with extreme black and white tonal contrast. Along with a clever use of diagonals, the result is both satisfying and emotionally disturbing.
“Encampmoment” features a solo female guitarist whose purple complexion resonates against color contrasts; we can almost see the sound of her music. The whole composition is rich with the feeling of music.
The imagery — sur-folk™ — is described by eRic as a cross between surrealism and folk art. Although his angular shapes certainly owe something to French Surrealism following Picasso’s synthetic cubist period (a couple of times removed), there is that cartoon-like element that adds a dash of whimsy to the works. This can be misleading without a closer look. “The Coming” offers this split aesthetic. A figure dressed in dark — a blend between a priest and a gangster — suspends a rosary from his left hand. Standing without emotion, he holds the figure of a Native American, screaming in agony, in a flaming bier. Stars burst in the sky overhead. But in another work, “Good Morning Buffalo,” whimsy holds its ground. The man in the buffalo print (is that a suit?) walks a truly hilarious dog as he greets the southwestern landscape.
The artist states that since early childhood, drawing and painting were his best friends. He believes a painting should have a soul and he aspires to create that in all of his work. The passion in these watercolors moves viewers to describe them as, indeed, having a lot of soul. And they certainly have something to say.
Images of his work may be seen at http://www.ericluplow.com/
Nancy Moyer, Professor Emerita of Art from UTPA, is an art critic for The Monitor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Brown to Gray, watercolors by eRic Luplow
Where: Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum, 2425 Boxwood St.,
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday; through June 9
Call: (956) 216-4901