Jose Quant Is the New Kid on the Old Masters' Block
Jose Quant, owner and operator of Q Art Salon, doesn't want your money; he just wants you to love the artists he loves, as shown in his grand-opening exhibition, "The Knights Debut," neatly displayed throughout his two-story gallery in Santa Ana's Artists Village.
The most accessible to readers of this infernal rag are the chiaroscuro portraits by the featured quartet's punk-rock Rembrandt, Sean Cheetham. Like the Old Master, he paints his contemporaries, surrounding them in velvety darkness and dim light. Elegantly posed, the male and female models have the regal bearing of the Dutch guy's noblemen, whether leaning against a wall (Amos) or inking somebody's arm (Jason Kundell), and all wear the armor and accouterments of modern society: leather and torn T-shirts; hair cropped; piercings displayed; adorned with goggles, headphones and hoodies. As example, Bonne Amie has all the trappings of a classical figurative painting: semi-nude model reclines on a chaise longue, bookshelves and fireplace in the background suggesting intelligence and stability, but the model sports elaborate chest tattoos, black (possibly dyed) hair and metal studs in her face and nipples, all tiny subversions of the work's OM origins. Unlike the passive nudes of times past, she clearly commands control of the canvases she graces, moving past Suicide Girls stroke material to embody a powerful, erotic womanhood.
Discomfort is the specialty of Russian-born painter Alex Kanevsky. In his unnerving "E.O.," a naked woman stands on a white canvas amid a pink wash, her back to us, splotched streaks of paint giving her a set of rabbit ears. It's not Playboy that comes to mind while looking at the picture, however, but a female version of Donnie Darko, the elongated lobes giving her a discomforting, small-animal vulnerability. Kanevsky's subtle Traveler With Luggage 2 and 3, prints of a woman in a long coat carrying a suitcase, trades on some of the same disturbing territory: It's unclear whether the woman is nude or clothed under her coat; her hair is bobbed in the style of the 1940s; the print mottled like an old, out-of-focus photo, and one can't help but see the similarities between it and any number of Holocaust images. While there is no pain on the face of the posed nude in J.H., the lower half of her body is awash in a blast of crimson that suggests as much crime scene as portrait sitting. And while the bisected ribs and marbled interior of an animal carcass in Interior With Meat may be hanging in an abattoir or a meat locker, its beautiful butchery is straight out of Francis Bacon's carnival of horrors.
Reminiscent of Edward Hopper's work, Marc Trujillo's paintings of urban fast-food-joint interiors—most identified only by street addresses or the stray corporate logo—are cool canvases of isolation. With rare exceptions, people eat, grimly focused, eyeing their food without so much as a glance at one another, even when couples sit at opposite sides of the same table. That solitude is reinforced with Meal #6, his still-life of a Burger King combo on a small, blue tray. Trujillo doesn't even have to show us the person eating it: Its cheap, fatty, salty lack of healthiness is sad statement enough. He's also remarkably adept at capturing the desolation of open spaces, reveling in their loneliness: The night scene of a scoop-light lit Costco food court in 1052 West Burbank Boulevard is hospital-like in its antiseptic cleanliness . . . save for a single piece of trash in one corner of the picture.
An entire room of the gallery is devoted to William Wray's exceptional Impressionist paintings. They don't include a single human being and are absolutely mundane in their subject matter—oil derricks, old buildings, cheap motels, pay phones, garbage trucks, parking lots—but he's a brilliant archeologist, discovering and showing us these things as if for the first time; his palette of bright colors elevating grungy and gritty trinkets into evocative relics: Garbage Truck brings out the sharp lines in its machine's windshield wipers, hopper and grill, as a patchwork of blue sky and unseen dusk tints and manipulates its pale armor. Bannister's greens, purples and whites lend an antique tint to a stairwell leading down, all but disappearing in a washed-out blue light at bottom.
At heart, Q Art Salon's Quant is a fanboy first and curator second. No obvious philosophical through-line, no consistent theme between artists, no one guiding us to a point of view . . . under other circumstances, that kind of group show probably wouldn't work for me. What sets this apart is that Quant has a great eye (an established painter, he's good enough to have been part of his own exhibit) and his abundant enthusiasm for the work is infectious; that very personal touch brings us in. I hope other galleries follow his lead.
This review appeared in print as "New Kid on the Old Masters' Block: Q Art Salon makes its debut in Santa Ana's Artists Village with a great show."
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Orange County art and theater scene.