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'Methods for Regional Stewardship' by Will Bruno at Smart Objects, Los Angeles

Painted in situ and attuned to the immediate surroundings of their conception, Will Bruno’s location-absorbent canvases capture awe for the natural world elaborated with symbols and allegorical figures sampled from regional history, religion, literature, and lore. For the artist’s second exhibition with Smart Objects, the tumultuous and storied region of Northern New Mexico serves as backdrop and subject. 

In a famed and fraught description of the Cerro Pedernal mesa, Georgia O’Keeffe interpreted her relationship to the land by stating; “It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.” As the ancestral home of the Tewa pueblo people, the flint-rich mountain was deemed holy long before O'Keeffe. The exhibition title and suite of paintings that compose Methods for Regional Stewardship build a relationship with the land rather with a sensibility of responsibility and care. 

Taking inspiration from the visual language of comics Bruno’s paintings combine the varied terrains of northern New Mexico within merged singular views. Saturated palettes belonging to the region illuminate iridescent iron-rich cliffs, sunset-colored mesas, bending bodies of blue water, patches of green that have nurtured generations of people and animals, and multiple storm systems stretching across sweeping panoramic skies. Rendered within or superimposed on such lustrous landscapes are subjects plucked from the region’s intricate history populated by Tewa Pueblo, Ute, Apache, Comanche, and Diné peoples, Genízero, Spanish Colonists, cattle wranglers, artists, ghosts, land developers, and tourists. 

Framing devices cited from illuminated manuscripts or chapter books further a motif of storytelling while untethered symbols and subjects upend any singular interpretation of the deconstructed allegorical paintings. The transformative power of montage is harnessed as a new composite whole is realized from fragments, clips, and layers from sources both experienced and imagined. Forced combinations of past and present charge visual synchronicities and contradictions. A gentle and sincere application of fabulism, or the use of fables, parables, and myths in contemporary contexts to offer new interpretations, is employed beyond anachronistic novelty, inspiring a restored poetic voice to ecology, civic pride, and public caretaking. Collapsing the past, present, future, fictional, and real into singular tableaux, a curling at the tail end of linear history wraps back in on itself, anticipating the future. 

13.11.21 — 1.1.22

Smart Objects

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