BY CARLY OEDING | OCTOBER 26, 2015
On October 9th, 2015 The Stream hosted a gallery opening for Rafael Francisco Salas’ World Without End art exhibit. The gallery opening was a success, with many people attending to enjoy good food, company and art. For several hours the doors were open for admirers to peruse the various works and to be entertained by the live music.
Salas has had numerous exhibits since his first in 2001. He was trained at the New York Academy of Art, and has experience in teaching and mentoring others in his craft. Currently, he teaches at Ripon College.
World Without End is a mix of oil on canvas and mixed media sculptures, focused on depicting Wisconsin’s tavern culture. Salas described the show as being impulsively put together and somewhat autobiographical. Many of the pieces are a unique blend of realistic and abstract. He also emphasized the dark, psychological themes in his show, relating to a cultural addiction to the ever-coming drink.
Salas says some recurring elements in his works are, “bright sadness, high lonesome, figurative and landscape traditions and abstract expressionism.” During a lecture at the Washburn Heritage Room on October 20th, Salas drew attention to similarities between his works and Byzantine idols, historical pieces and abstract art. He also informed his audience that country music is the
ideal soundtrack to his art due to a similar blending of upbeat cheerfulness and dragging depressive moods, which he referred to as “high lonesome.”
His art has a sense of familiarity with recognizable brand signs, faceless crowds, and shadowy lights. “Sun(shine)” and “Edge of Vision” have bleary, yet recognizable logos incorporated into the familiar bar scenes they depict. Throughout the show, bright colors stand out, starkly contrasted with the dark shadows that dominate.
The sculptures in this show contrast greatly with the oil paintings. Salas portrays seemingly recognizable landscapes in a way that seem, in his words, “cruddy.” They feature solid colors and cheap material, draped in plastic party beads– another comment on the drinking culture in Wisconsin. In his lecture, he stated that “contemporary art often foregoes beauty.” He elaborated by explaining that today’s art is meant to recognize that there are some parts of life that are unpleasant. This art is meant to connect and relate to that, rather than dismiss it with idealistic beauty.
World Without End will remain on exhibit until November 6th. Gallery hours are 11:00am-4:00pm Wednesday through Friday and 12-4pm Saturday and Sundays. While Salas does not know what exactly his next plan is, he does plan to continue creating art.