Darren Vigil Gray at Gerald Peters

- August 29, 2011

"The work is filled with a unique approach to subject matter that moves through representation to imaginative expression"

I went back to Gerald Peters Gallery the other day for another look at the new show by artist Darren Vigil Gray. I often return to a show after the excitement of an opening – to spend more time with each piece and, also, to see the work without the crowds often associated with our gallery opening rituals.

For me, openings are more about honoring the artist and showing support for his or her work. The festive atmosphere, replete with finger food, a cool beverage and friends, is not always the most conducive atmosphere in which to really get a sense of the work. I need reflective time in front of each piece – often circling back to pieces that have moved me or ones that I have to see again, in order to let the feelings seep in deeper.

Of his work, Darren has said “my culture sustains and nurtures me in the most gentle and positive way. Like the deer, I have an absolute faith and reliance on the natural world. Like my ancestors who came before me, I prefer to approach my art with wild abandonment, free-wheeling nature and spontaneous activity.”

He says he has always admired Abstract Expressionists Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollack and that admiration can certainly be seen in the bold brushwork of Darren’s work through the years. Perhaps this is part of what I, personally, take away from his work. Darren’s work as a painter, though often beginning with inspirations that are cultural, regional or geographical – he is Jicarilla Apache/Kiowa Apache – transcends these factors and becomes a source of pure, raw imagery.

The work is filled with a unique approach to subject matter that moves through representation to imaginative expression.  Personally, I believe that not since Fritz Scholder has a Native American painter moved so completely into the realm of pure “painting.” Darren is an artist of unique skill and communicates with the viewer in a powerful and personal way. He is seen as a “painter’s painter” by many of the best artists working today.

This raw energy can be seen throughout his current show at Gerald Peters, which runs through the end of September. Some of the standout works for me are: "My Buddha Moon" and "As I Have Been Alone." These deeply psychological images stay with you throughout the show and beyond. They are among the pieces I circled back to again and again while viewing this show.

And then there are the landscapes, which have become a growing part of his output. Of these I returned, increasingly to "Abiquiu Moment, #2," "In the Daylight, #3" and "Desert Dawn." Each of these seems quite diminutive compared to the landscapes of three and four feet that were also in the show; but they were all I could absorb in this, my second viewing, of these extraordinary paintings. I will just have to return again during September and spend more time in the presence of these powerful works. I’ll be the one standing, flat-footed, in front of a large landscape, unable to move.