YOLANDA GONZALEZ

"Spider Woman", acrylic on wood, 18 1/2 x 13", 1995.

by Elenore Welles

(Granados 2 Gallery, Glendale) Although American artists of Latin American decent may share common cultural roots and contextualization, they neverthless operate within a system of paradoxical dualities. However easy it may be to view these artists through the prism of ethnicity, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that the work is always filtered through the unique vision of the artist. With a foot in two worlds, so to speak, Hispanic-American artists contribute an interesting fusion of styles. But personal examination and experimentation always play a crucial role.
Culture, tradition and communal loyalties all come into play in the art of Yolanda Gonzalez. Gonzalez studied at Pasadena's Art Center, but did not reach the full bloom of her painting style until she began working in the supportive atmosphere of Self-Help Graphics. There she became acquainted with artists such as Diane Gamboa, Patssi Valdez and Gronk, and was introduced to the art of printmaking. Experimenting with silk-screens, lithographs and monoprints, her graphics bore a direct relationship to her paintings, functioning as either a preliminary study or as a completed image.

During this period, Gonzalez's work reflected deep]y ingrained cultural images. Yet, the influences of contrasting cultural currents remained evident. Visions of the Virgin of Guadalupe plus personal portraits burst forth in flamboyant designs and vivid primary colors. They often reveal an affinity to the Mexican surrealism associated with Frida Kahlo. At the same time, their vibrant energy recalls the expressionist qualities of Emile Nolde and Alexei Javlensky.

Gonzalez spent time as an artist-in-residence both in Madrid, Spain and in Japan. At the Tama Art Studio in Japan she continued to explore printing techniques, including wood block prints with oil sticks. She also experimented with copperplates, using dry point and carborundum, a technique that employs sand and glue. These new processes allowed her greater freedom of expression. Consequently, she developed a graphic language that gave vent to a more emotional inner voice. The quality of abstraction became intensified and the drama previously evoked through the use of brilliant reds, blues and greens was replaced by the more somber drama of black and white. In addition, the liberal use of scratching and etching added to the emotional intensity. As a result, her art evolved into a more complex and consequently a richer stylization.

In the current exhibit, Metamorphosis, Gonzalez's latest works appear as the equivalent of an emotional outbreak. As she puts it, "I deal with the psychological monsters in my head." Women trapped by their circumstances appears as the prevalent theme. The open-mouthed agony of the woman in The Scream, for example, captures the universal despair of a woman caught in the cycle of victimization. A black and white acrylic on wood, this depiction is reminiscent of Picasso's anguished woman in Guernica.

Entrapped Woman continues the theme of woman constrained by the narrow confines of her environment. Bound and seemingly stuffed into the canvas, she confronts the viewer with her quandry of helplessness. Women grappling with dualities is portrayed in Spider Woman, who appears sorrowful, yet resolute. She evokes the dilemma of women who attempt to be loving and feminine, and, at the same time, maintain the strength and detachment needed to avoid societal and personal barriers.

Heir to a host of mythological iconographies, Gonzalez also pays homage to the role mysticism plays in her culture. In Crow, Owl and Death death appears to arise from the bark of a tree, perhaps bringing relief to spiritual and corporeal pain.