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José Pascual Hijuelos: new paintings at Skot Foreman Gallery

By Lulu Torbet

The balanced, meticulously ordered gravitas of Jose Pascual Hijuelos’ abstract paintings claim your attention at Skot Foreman Gallery. These new paintings, with their structured geometric schema, are built up in subtle layers of shape and color. There are several large paintings, ranging in size from 41” x 54” to the 59” x 77” “Orphic Symphony,” the springboard for this series. Two smaller suites of three paintings, “Canto Nocturno” and “Canto Doloroso” round out the show.

New paintings by José Pascual Hijuelos
Mon-Sat, 11-6pm
Through Oct 1
Skot Foreman Gallery
Fábrica Aurora 12A

Ever the classicist, Pascual says that this body of work has its origins in Greek mythology: “Orphic Symphony” refers to the journey of Orpheus. “I tried to instill an archaic, lyric quality, which I feel is reflected in the strong repetition of the chord-like verticals and the pale, neutral colors. There is also a connection to my childhood in the church. I spent my formative years singing polyphony, in particular Gregorian chant. My physical presence in church on a daily basis influenced my aesthetics, to the point that all my work conveys a sense of ritual and mysticism.”

The musical notation of chant is the connective tissue of the work in this show. Pascual’s intent was not to echo music of the Gregorian era, but “to create paintings which are asymmetrically harmonious and exist in an environment of reminiscent of ritual and mysticism.” Hijuelos begins with many drawings, from which he chooses what he will paint. After a lifetime of painting in oil, he is experimenting more with acrylic, which he feels allows him a certain freedom. Specific formal elements reappear—blocks of complex color, some dark and saturated, some pale and washed; angled fissures that pierce the space; and, very prominently in each piece, at least one stark white square—an entry point or nod to the mystic.

A Cuban-American, Hijuelos was born and raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. After four years of military service in England, he returned to get his M.F.A. in painting. His early work reveals his talents as a draftsman and realist painter. But he moved on to study with Philip Pearlman, Lucas Samaras, Jimmy Ernst, Lee Bontecou, and Alan D’Archangelo. For several years he was Al Held’s assistant. He considers postwar American abstract painting his main influence, in particular the work of Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Ben Nicholson and Al Held. As for life itself, he has traveled widely and done stints as a New York cab driver, a teacher, an air traffic controller, and has been the site supervisor and illustrator at numerous archeological digs in Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus.

Hijuelos has participated in dozens of group shows, and has had numerous solo exhibitions in New York. Here in San Miguel, where he has lived since 2006, he has shown at the Museo de la Ciudad in Querétaro in 2010, and had the first solo exhibition in the main gallery at Rosewood in 2011. Be sure and see this powerful show, which will run through October 1.

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