ROBERTO GIL DE MONTES


[1] [2]
[3] [4]

1) "Boy Behind Screen", o/c, 1996.
2) "Pommegranate Tree", o/c, 3 x 7', 1996.
3) "Snarled", o/c, 11 x 14", 1996.
4) "Grid", o/c, 1995.

by Margarita Nieto

(Jan Baum Gallery, West Hollywood) In this, his first exhibition in three years, Roberto Gil de Montes continues to explore painting for painting's sake, and this new series of oils on canvas also reveal a new maturity and sense of contemplation at this painter's mid-career.

A series of male portraits are simultaneously a celebration of the male figure--an homage to the male--which in Gil de Montes' work is as much an acknowledgement of a time-honored theme in the history of painting as it is a personal statement. They are as well a reflection on the process of growth, maturation and transition, mainly through fantastic interplays between a decorative and figurative language, specifically through the psychological and illusionistic device of the screen and the veil.

In two of these, Screen and Boy Behind Screen, Gil de Montes utilizes a characteristic variation of a thick and thin painting surface to play with the image of the personaje. In the first of these, a matinee-idol-like figure looks at us through a veil, a decorative surface that obscures and tantilizingly reveals him to the viewer. In the second, Boy Behind Screen, the same approach reveals a younger man and, as with the veil, serves as a screen eliciting references to bridal veils, curtains, Chinese screens, and shutters--all allusions to a coquetry that demands our attention while hiding and shielding the object of our desire. And yet the screen creates an intentional barrier distancing the viewer even as it attracts him or her to the painted image. It is also a painterly reference to Gil de Montes' constant fascination with the cinema.

In Trap, the screen becomes another device, a spider web. Caught in its threads, the personaje's world is turned upside down; he floats like a spider in the air. The young man in Joven, on the other hand, embodies an adolescent innocence and candor. Standing nude against a dark blue background, the point d'esprit curtain covering him enhances the feeling of youth.
These feelings find other avenues of expression in Snarled--a dead bird lying entangled in a labyrinth of cords --a strong reference to Morris Graves. Birds in Pomegranate Tree is a delicate profusion of black birds, green leaves and red fruit which Gil de Montes turns to the decorative language of Mexican Viceregal art which was in turn, informed by Asian art.

In other works, notably Grid and Sound, Gil de Montes reiterates images drawn from Carlos Almaraz. Functioning as a homage to memory and friendship they are also inferences of Gil de Montes' own being and experience. For this painter, the categorization of the life experience into gender, cultural boundaries, and life style are fallacious in that all of these modes embody an entire experiential stance. They are integral parts of a totality that lie behind his identity as a painter and which inform his work. His sole passion above all seems to be to explore paint, to find out through paint what one is capable of, what paint itself can do, and to enjoy oneself in the process. These works mirror this transition; for this exhibition marks his arrival at a level of expression that fulfills his own view of maturity.

Along with this show, sculptor Annette Bird's Personal Myths and Fantasies is an exhibition of works in bronze and mixed media which combine witty mythical figures with provocative psychological narratives. They are strong statements on the masks and dark games of life.