Diego Sanchez’s complex, mixed-media paintings reference both history and technology.

A Matter of Time

iego Sanchez’s new paintings at Main Art Gallery are journals of creative perception. They reveal a measure of the acute awareness that an artist undergoes when he or she makes art. Sanchez’s written statement emphasizes time as a force on his work. It appears to be the primary force in it as well. In fact, these paintings seem to be about time: both immediate and diaristic, as well as classical and archival.

Sanchez’s complex, vivid, mixed-media paintings consider a selective inventory of iconic objects from the history of civilization. He gives each object in his series the same characteristic dominance in the picture plane. The mask, the chair, the chalice and the Roman Coliseum are all presented in the same size and thus assume a kind of parity. This is also a quality imposed by historic time. It too tends to equalize the past, transforming it from a subjective sensory experience into an uninvested intellectual one. This is aided by photographic record which homogenizes both relic and ruin to the size of a column, page or computer monitor. Sanchez references that psychological consequence in his art by acting as an observer as he uses digital images off the computer and acts as an accomplice by perpetuating the effect.

The ancient Aztecs used a method of bordering their pictorial records with symbolic cartouches that indicated time. Coincidentally, today’s computer screens are edged with graphic icons: font size, page count, time of day. Either cultural resource, or both, can be divined in the layout of some of these current works.

Sanchez does not so much paint what he sees when he is out in the world as much as what he experiences in his creative process. Aside from demonstrating the equalizing impulse of Internet data on his subject matter, for instance, a change in his understanding or interest might show up in the painting in opaque layers concealing earlier imagery, and sequences of numbers. In establishing his palette he constructs a color key, and then exposes it, allowing it to take its place in the story. Many of Sanchez’s works are divided by grids, a technique for enlarging an image with accuracy; Sanchez also preserves this process in the painting. It gives the geometric structure to the background that is a recurring theme in his work.

An inscrutable bubble shape appears in several of the paintings to greater and lesser extent. It is a point of departure from everything else. I began to wonder about it in “The Gaul,” having initially taken it for granted in “Iyoba.” A supernatural translucent presence, it hovers before Iyoba’s face like a crystal ball, infusing a mysticism into the severe carnival atmosphere of the piece. In “The Gaul,” housing an embryonic scrawl, it seems like an evanescent Greek shield or an immortal reference to the round base which he, the fallen warrior, historically moves towards. In “Mascara Africana III” it’s back again, this time as a series of vulnerable cells along a crosshair.

The surfaces of the works in the show are vitreous and enticing; the paint color and application is hedonistic, miles deep, luxuriant and paint-proud. Does that describe it adequately? Maybe not. “El Coliseo” is a riot of color as though every shout, every clap and every flashbulb that might have reverberated within the ancient structure through time had fastened itself to the outer walls. Dates appear in the atmosphere, random or specific guidelines to a structure that has observed many cycles of time and numerical attributions. Where specific references to time are excluded, its ravaging effects are rendered in the skin of the icon or the electric, changing climate surrounding it. All involve the matter of time, phenomena that Sanchez can always use, and


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