When you look at someone, you see them in parts: a nose, a shirt collar, an earlobe. The mind pieces these parts together. There’s no wide angle lens in your skull, everything is composites. I remember with the same part of my brain that I see with. If the thing I’m seeing or remembering is a beach, it is sandwiched with all the beaches I’ve experienced in life, pictures, and stories: the smells, things eaten at the beach, people I was with, and states of mind.
I like hyperrealist painting because of how it references this layering by expressing the visual opposite: a flattening. Scenes feel packed, more like evidence than art because of the way light and shadow are so solid, so documentary-like.
In rise Alvarez looks at California (the state where he was born) with two notions in mind: that his gaze is influenced by a lifetime of looking and that he wants to use the logic (and methods) of hyperrealism to capture things that won’t sit still. The latter is inspired by Robbe-Grillet, a hyperrealist writer who applied his mathematical thinking to such imprecise things as shadows, blurred vision, rising tides, and the past recalled.
The underlying theme for the show is “revolution.” The source photos used for this exhibition were taken by other people (when D-L was quite young). These images and their setting are used to give looking a circular logic. Everything here turns in on itself. In a video work entitled Canary Western, day turns into night and back again. The wagon wheel which got families out west is turned into a hanging lamp. And in the drawings, you’ll find members of the Black Panthers as well as the Manson Family; two radical groups from the late 60s with very different agendas. But keep in mind, Manson hoped to (ab)use the Panthers’ reputation; the murders he ordered were designed to cast blame on the Panthers and incite a riot between blacks and whites. The word “rise” itself was written on the walls of the LaBianca home in the blood of the victims in order to evoke a sense of political motives.
Nonetheless, this is not a backwards glance; these works are done with an eye that sees things on a continuum. The word “rise” is used here as a call and a warning.
D-L Alvarez lives and works in Berlin. He is currently in “Drawing from the Modern, 1975-2005” at the Museum of Modern Art, through January 9, 2006. His work will be included in Vitamin D, Phaidon’s upcoming publication on contemporary drawing. This will be his fifth solo show with the gallery.