'Heyd Fontenot and Louie Cordero: East Meats West'

Art Palace's 'East Meats West' shows how Heyd Fontenot and Louie Cordero may have different styles, but they share an enjoyment in contemplating the body that's palpable

<i>Clair With Head Back</i>, by Heyd Fontenot
Clair With Head Back, by Heyd Fontenot

"Heyd Fontenot and Louie Cordero: East Meats West"

Art Palace, through Nov. 15

<i>Boring Youth</i>, by Louis Cordero
Boring Youth, by Louis Cordero

Two artists excited about painting the human body are Heyd Fontenot and Louie Cordero. They have different styles, but they share an enjoyment in contemplating the body that's palpable. Both are also cheerful and smart and capture an in-the-moment clarity of purpose. And both use the center of the rectangle as a focal point. This could be predictable, but in their capable hands, it's focused and fantastic.

Fontenot shows small-format watercolor portraits, many of them full-body portraits, in which he daintily captures postures of his friends. The intimacy and singularity of the works is beguiling. He puts an emphasis on the hands, feet, and face. This attention to detail pays off – the gracefulness of his elbows and wrists are especially hot. Some paintings, such as Clair With Head Back, are headshots, money shots. They operate like rarefied classical portraits, ones that makes you look better than you do in real life. Fontenot's influences are a funky combination of classical portraiture, storyboarding, cartooning, Hollywood glamour, set building, luxurious sensitivity to what various media are good for, and a liking for objectifying his friends, alongside a crazy need to form his own version of toile de Jouy prints. The open white of his works on paper breathe in the centered economical compositions. In his larger oil paintings with multiple nudes, Fontenot's figures are encapsulated by their naked pinkness in a taupe pinstriped background. Friends are treated like wild stags in a French 18th-century scenic wallpaper pattern.

Cordero, from Manila, uses a more referential and layered painting style. He draws pussy monsters, and eyes pop and gory, enlarged brains droop out of little bodies, while tiny ineffectual doctors stand helplessly near by. This could be called the "Slayer" aesthetic. It depicts humans as weaklings, infected, and bestial. This acknowledgement of imperfection allows for the belief in epic heroes and magical powers. Cordero uses rainbows, halos, lasers coming out of alien eyes, and text captions to stay positive with his rock & roll-styled artwork.

A brand-new series of 12-inch paintings has themes I've noticed in work by Houston artist Bill Davenport and Dallas artist Ludwig Schwarz. All three develop backgrounds that reference 1960s "masters" or abstract expressionist art trends. This loose, basically flat style is then subverted with detailed realism. This use of two styles in one is hard to pull off, but Cordero makes it look easy. He'll paint a wood grain with a large brush like for a stage prop then render some "stunt actors" in tiny realistic detail, thus playing with your attention span. He toys with scale and art history. Some works are more openly derivative, like his version of a Raymond Pettibon drawing made for Sonic Youth. His is called Boring Youth, and it's bright and poppy. His Dutch Boy painting is the album cover for his experimental rock band in Manila.

In his gallery talk, Cordero explained that he is afraid of blood, therefore painting it is exciting, because it freaks him out but he can control it. He equated the use of fake blood on stunt actors to stigmata imagery with glee in his voice. Cordero finds freedom by putting his own "medical fear" up on a pedestal, where it's safe to gaze at, ritualized, overly decorated, rock-posterized in a manner that makes it accessible. He uses details like flat decorative lines, lace, and various borders to echo out of the centered compositions. He says that for most Filipinos, more stuff is always better. It's the opposite of minimalism; it's intentionally over the top. I really like Cordero, so does one of my favorite magazines of all times, Giant Robot. Read about him in issue No. 43.

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