Humanely Perverse: Alejandro Augustine Padilla at Bihl Haus

Considering that the great juxtapositions of our day all happen on the internet first—Youtube videos that pit Jack Nicholson’s Joker against Heath Ledger’s, or those sonic mash-ups that fuse pop singers who already sound the same—you may assume that outside of the digital realm, the best exquisite corpse we’ve got is to switch channels fast between Jeopardy! and Charlie Rose

It is refreshing to see a young San Antonio artist who has gone back, it would seem, to the manifestos of Andre Breton (Surrealist Manifesto) and Antonin Artaud (Theatre of Cruelty).

Alejandro Augustine Padilla coaxes swift line work against grueling monstrosity in ways that seem to unify the work of the German Surrealist Hans Bellmer (a man notorious for his unsettling fetishistic doll) and the California artist Robert Williams (painter, cartoonist and founder of, ahem, Juxtapoz magazine).

Padilla’s work may resemble the Janus of these two extremists, but his actual influences, which include De Chirico, Dino Valls, Al Held, Caton and Caravaggio, are as broad as they are arresting.

His current exhibition of oils and ink work, “The Life Perverse,” runs at the Bihl Haus Arts until the end of January and invokes the sad clown Pierrot to the praying mantis ... there are actually all kind of mouths and maws on display.

“The medical community seems to be drawn greatly to my work,” says Padilla. “The biological forms, the psychology behind the imagery. From a neurologist to a gynecologist to a dentist. I say it’s a harmonic match.” 

The image of Pierrot is a recurring one, in particular. How did this obsession come about?  

“The initial exploration of Pierrot came about from three porcelain cameos I bought at the thrift store. In fact, I specifically remember buying them along with a small Breta Hummel print. Both images have always lingered in my mind from growing up. You know, bad, tacky ’80s decorations. I use to say about myself, ‘I’m the only fool I ever knew.’ The buffoon feelings of being an artist at times are defeating, humorous though. Laughter has always been my best defense.”

At 34 years old, Padilla is a self-taught artist who first started painting in oil at the age of 15. An atheist who was raised Catholic, Padilla recalls that around the age of nine he wanted to be a priest: “I use to mix cherry Kool-Aid and line up my cousins, ‘The Blood of Christ.’ Those images and symbols last your life, under the threat of Hell. Wild things.”

But one of the real delights of the show is a series of small, fast ink works, surprisingly effective, even to the artist.

“The smaller ink work was displayed to show a simple conceptual sketch to a final painting,” he says. “They draw a lot of attention. Shows what I know.”

Alejandro Padilla: The Life Perverse

1-4pm Fri-Sat
Bihl Haus Arts
2803 Fredericksburg
(210) 383-9723
Through Feb 1, 2014

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