Issue #174
The Times They Are A-Changin' (Again) September 16, 2011

Xochi Solis
Installation view
Courtesy of the artist and SOFA Gallery

View Gallery

Xochi Solis

SOFA, Austin

Through September 30
by Mary Caitlin Greenwood

Xochi Solis’ pieces featured in All the Clouds Turn to Words are vibrant, bright studies detailing the terse relationship between obligation and escapism. Solis’ works in Clouds are loose abstractions comprised of collaged images, museum board, painted Duralar discs, wood and the occasional found objects. Photographs of feathers and prints of anatomical slides peek out between the many layers of color, creating a layered impression of warmth. Each piece expresses vitality, exuberance and uninhibited youthfulness, nodding to the prolonged work conducted by Solis in her MASS Gallery studio this summer. The images and painted components, alongside brief inclusions of texture, result in a group of pieces that embody the pursuit of the ethereal and extract meaning from the seemingly arbitrary.

The largest piece in the collection, We are All Just Doing the Best We Can, acts as the focal point for the exhibition. Interlacing, asymmetrical canvases of yellow, lavender and purple emerge from the East wall of the gallery while radiant swatches of green and red Duralar are affixed to the background. An amorphous, cerulean cloud acts as the backdrop for the piece. We are All highlights Solis’ intensive construction process, which can occasionally be overlooked in smaller pieces. In the transition to a larger scale, Solis slows down the rapid dialogue conveyed in the small studies. We are All draws attention towards the entire layering process rather than just individual layers. Each new layer of color enthusiastically masks the more concrete imagery, in this case photographs of hair and minerals. The individual components become magnified to allow for the intricacies of Solis’ work to come to the fore. Solis’ imagery in We are All Just Doing the Best We Can is purposeful and direct instead of leaning purely upon formal games to be poignant.

Contrary to the clarity expressed in We are All, the many layers of color, photographs and various other materials in her smaller studies are difficult to discern meaning from. The photographs are stuffed, almost unnoticeably, behind the paintings or colored museum board and don’t create any aesthetic impact on their own, but instead, work in collaboration with the jolts of color. The images offer brief glimpses of Solis’ influences, such as pop culture and music, to which she credits her work. Many of the pieces in the show borrow their titles from famous song lyrics from artists such as Brian Eno and Michael Bolton. Instead of narrowing down possible conclusions about the subject matter, these smaller studies lack the same resonance articulated in the large-scale painting.

Solis’ weaving of warm, rich tones and fragments of representational imagery and materials is clearly enjoyable, though offers little more beyond an overarching sense of visual pleasure and contentment. Solis forces distinct, understood images, to forgo their inherent meaning and instead participate in the larger abstraction of her work. Likewise, she encourages her audience to derive more from the visual experience of the show than anything else. The lasting impression of Clouds is not one of the pieces specifically, or even of the images embedded amidst the swoops of colors, but of the cheery attitude that resonates with the work as a whole. However, if that is the only criticism to be said of the show, it is a testament to the characteristically upbeat energy Solis has skillfully learned to instill within her work.

Mary Caitlin Greenwood recently joined the UP Collective as their resident curator and exhibitions coordinator. She writes, lives, and works in Austin, TX.

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