A Surreal Portrait of Solitude and Isolation During 2020

LOS ANGELES — There is, perhaps, a parallel between quarantine and the artist’s studio. The four walls, the sense of enclosure, the isolation — all of which can be palpably felt in Marcel Alcalá’s solo show at Night Gallery in Los Angeles. Even the exhibition’s title, Solita, expresses our current moment. Though the featured work was made during quarantine, there are few overt references to the coronavirus pandemic. What runs like a red thread through these paintings and ceramics is a quiet foreboding, winding along the ocean floor of the subconscious. A “girlie,” as Alcalá calls them, smokes a cigarette at the window as the world crumbles outside. The eponymous canvas portrays an updated Narcissus, laying with ambivalent expression under a red-ringed sun.

Marcel Alcalá, “View from my room” (2020), oil on wood panel, 60 x 48 inches
Marcel Alcalá, “Solita” (2020), oil on wood panel, 18 x 12 inches

Alcalá’s palette recalls Matisse, even as the subjects they depict dwell in the decidedly contemporary sphere of luchadores, face tats, and thigh-high boots. When André Breton wrote that Surrealism would resolve the contradiction between dream and reality, he might have had this sort of work in mind. But Alcalá seems to push further, reflecting, as so many are right now, on the boundary between life and death, as in the piece “Ego Death,” where a ghostly figure rises out of the chest of a fallen girlie, bridging this existence and the next.

Marcel Alcalá, “Ego Death” (2020), ceramic, glazed, 8 x 9 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches

Marcel Alcalá: Solita continues at Night Gallery (2276 E 16th St, Downtown, Los Angeles) through January 16. The gallery is open by appointment.

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