Rafael Francisco Salas, Song, 2022. Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches.
March 24 through May 13, 2023
Reception: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 24
(Both artists will be in attendance)
Artist Talk: Noon, Saturday, March 25
Artist Talk: Noon, Saturday, April 22
Portrait Society Gallery of Contemporary Art is pleased to present Cruces|Crossroads, a two-person exhibition featuring Herman Aguirre Martinez and Rafael Francisco Salas.
The work of these artists exists at the intersections of experience and identity. The title refers to the complementary and also contradictory nature of two Latinx artists who together create an expansive meditation on rural and urban experience, the conflicts of establishing an American life from immigrant roots, and the spiritual and poetic power that painting has to describe the “cruces,” or crossroads, that Aguirre and Salas have experienced in their lives.
Herman Aguirre Martinez is a Chicago native who teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Aguirre explores the corporeal nature of memory, as a testament to a community struggling with violence, and the desire to remember those who have fallen victim to it. Aguirre was raised in the Back of the Yards neighborhood located on the Southside of Chicago, where he has stated, crime and violence is “visible throughout.” Memorials exist poignantly in the streets and sidewalks, engulfing the environment that surrounds him and his loved ones. He faces these issues head on by depicting the "cruces" or crossroads that he has walked since his adolescence, where unfortunately, many have lost their lives. Aguirre addresses the violence of local gangs and the ongoing war on drugs by applying thick paint to make sculptural compositions that bear the gravity of remorse. The weight, the subjects, the act of adoration for the deceased, and the time invested in contemplation conflate into what feels like a sense of refusal to abandon the ideals of culture, legacy, and community.
Rafael Francisco Salas is an artist and professor at Ripon College in Wisconsin. This is his third major exhibition at PSG. Salas grew up in a mixed race family in rural Wisconsin. The displacement of this hybrid experience creates a psychological underpinning in his artwork. Salas subtly exposes social and political divides in imagery that also describes the crossroads of his own upbringing. The result is a mercurial, multicultural reflection on rural America. His paintings offer haunted, wistful descriptions of county fairs, farm chores, and landscapes that Salas describes as portraying “an indignant desire for a dream continually just beyond reach.” Salas takes influences from the old masters and brings them to light with a conceptual awareness and a contemporary fracturing.
Herman Aguirre Martinez is a Mexican American artist born and raised in Chicago, where he continues to live. He earned his BFA (2014) and MFA (2017) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). He currently teaches at SAIC and is a faculty member in the Painting and Drawing Department. He was one of eight individuals to be awarded the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship for Performing and Visual Arts (2017). He has had solo exhibitions at the University of Saint Francis (IN), Abattoir Gallery (OH), Zolla Lieberman Gallery (CHI), Steve Turner Gallery (LA), University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Fine Arts Work Center (MA), among others. He has been included in numerous group exhibitions, most recently at the Rockford Art Museum (IL) and the Taubman Museum of Art (VA). His work is in the permanent collections of the National Mexican Museum of Art (IL), The Rockford Art Museum (IL), the Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, and the Akron Museum (OH).
Rafael Franciso Salas has a BA from Macalester College (1995), St. Paul (MN), and an MFA from The New York Academy of Art (2003). Solo and two-person exhibitions include Portrait Society Gallery (WI), St. Norbert’s College (WI), MOWA|DTN (WI), the Wright Museum of Art (WI), Elms College (MA), Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts (WI) and Latino Arts (WI). His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including The Real Tinsel Gallery (WI), the National Mexican Museum of Art (IL), Altus Holland Fine Arts, (Netherlands), Frank Juarez Gallery (WI), and The Warehouse Museum, (WI). His work is in the collections of The Wright Museum of Art, The Museum of Wisconsin Art, Ripon Historical Society (WI), Ripon College, and Macalester College. Salas also frequently writes about art for NewCity Art Chicago, Urban Milwaukee and other publications. He is a professor of art at Ripon College, and has also guest curated a number of exhibitions including, most recently, “Strange Lands” at the Museum of Wisconsin Art’s St. Kate location (2022).
Rafael Francisco Salas, County Fair 1 (Princess), 2021. Oil on canvas, 51 x 30 inches
Herman Aguirre Martinez, Herida, 2020.
Oil and acrylic skins on panel, 32in x 32in x 3 inches.
Herman Aguirre Martinez, Cobija, 2019.
Oil and oil skins on canvas, 18 x 24 x 3 inches.
Herman Aguirre Martinez, Almohada, 2019.
Oil and oil/acrylic skins on canvas, 13.5 x 12.5i x 5 inches.
Rafael Francisco Salas, Prize Cake, 2022. Oil on canvas, 20 x 20 inches.
Rafael Francisco Salas, County Fair 2 (Shovel), 2021. Oil on canvas, 51 x 30 inches.
Rafael Francisco Salas, Phantom, 2021. Oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches.
Herman Aguirre Martinez, Maroon, 2020.
Oil and oil/acrylic skins on panel, 20 x 49 x 3 inches.