Review: ‘LatinGA' exhibit goes beyond origins

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 20, 2010

by Catherine Fox


Spruill Gallery’s “LatinGA” features eight Atlanta artists with Latin roots, but don’t expect insights or epiphanies about being Latin or Georgian. The artists come from different countries, and their origins play very different roles in their art -- for some not at all.

Gallery director Hope Cohn uses the theme as an umbrella rather than a scaffold, a way to corral a group of artists who merit our attention. The exhibit succeeds quite well as a series of mini-solo displays.

Spruill gets bonus points for timing. The show coincides with the announcement that one of the artists, Lucha Rodriguez, won the 2010-11 Forward Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award. She will have a show at Swan Coach House Gallery in August; at the moment, Spruill is the place to see her art.

Venezuela-born, Atlanta-trained, Rodriguez is represented by individual compositions created by combining intaglio (here, embossing) and intricately cut paper as well as a wonderful site-specific installation. Her techniques and talent are writ large in this bower of paper strips -- white and pink -- and lacy sheets, which loop, swoop, dangle from the ceiling and the walls, intersected by rose-colored tubing. The piece glows red and yellow, thanks to the colors on the underside of the white paper. Cast shadows add another layer of shapes. The dominance of pink and the delicacy of the shapes give the work a female aura. Also notable, though more obvious in the smaller pieces, is the intertwining of pink cut paper, whose bulges suggest intestines and sexual organs, and crisp white ones. This suggests the public/private spheres she alludes to in her statement.

If you have ever imagined yourself plunging your face into a chocolate cake or stood in front of the freezer to down a pint of ice cream or want to understand other people’s food obsessions, you’ll be fascinated by Maria Raquel Cochez’s paintings.

A happily chomping woman (the artist?) is literally up to her ears in doughnuts, the perfect binge food, in one of the deftly painted large-scale realist canvases from her “Fantasies” series.

But “Analida” might better explain the call of calories. To wit, the orgasmic satisfaction of the smiling woman, who lies in what appears to be Alpha-Bits cereal much like Gustav Klimt’s “Danae,” whom Zeus seduced in the form of a shower of gold.

Interspersed between the pleasures is the pain. Two chalkboards note Cochez’s weight from age 12 to the present, which records a long-fought and often-lost battle against fat.

One can view this work in terms of female body image or the obesity plague, but Cochez, a Savannah College of Art and Design grad born in Panama, seems to me to be more interested in exploring the psychology of eating than in making feminist or cultural statements.

Pilar Martinez and Sergio Garzon are two artists who actually mention memories of home -- the Dominican Republic and Colombia, respectively -- as sources for their work. Martinez’s quirky collages and Garzon’s hallucinatory paintings of tangled men and fish need no footnotes, however. They are visually alluring on their own.

Catherine Fox is chief art critic of

The bottom line: Spruill Gallery does a good job of showcasing undersung Georgia artists, as it does here with a group whom you’ll want to know about.