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Rubin Gallery
Thursday, August 25 - Friday, December 9, 2022
Opening Reception 
Thursday, August 25 | 5 - 7:30pm

 

 In more than 20 new paintings and works on paper, El Paso-born artist Sam Reveles uses densely layered strips of color and delicately networked lines to explore human perception—and profound melancholy—about the natural world and its changing conditions.

A series of four large canvases produced for the exhibition chart the artist’s affective experience of visiting the Gullfoss Falls in southwest Iceland. These “Golden Falls,” formed by water from the melting Langjökull glacier, create a dramatic spectacle in the Hvitá river canyon. There, water falls more than 100 feet in two stages, carving a deep canyon into the landscape. The site was at the epicenter of an international debate in the early 20th century: in 1907, an Englishman attempted to develop a hydroelectric plant fueled by the water’s power. A local sheep farmer, Tómas Tómasson, refused to sell his land to the businessman; his daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir led a 20-year legal battle to protect the land from development. The first three paintings in Reveles’s Gullfoss series take yellow, blue, and red, respectively, as their central color palette, following dynamic lines that suggest the majestic power of their namesake. The fourth painting in the series is marked by thick strokes of overlapping and slightly translucent colors: peach, yellow, salmon, azure, crimson, a verdant green. Guiding the composition from the corners and edges of the canvas, densely gridded pencil lines undulate and flow into one another, suggestively evoking the many moods of water.

Sam Reveles, Untitled #11, 2022.
Sam Reveles, Tigua, 2022.
Sam Reveles, Untitled #7, 2021.

Reveles’s drawings also look to human and animal referents. Using bodily contours, he traces out gently rounded patterns and creates measuring devices that then offer the structure for each composition. His color choices are also important: he often selects colors which reference elements of the natural world. Other colors look to the natural dyes and pigments from Indigenous traditions of the Americas, before the European invasion. The subtlety of the human presence in these works is also about perception: he describes a “primal relationship between ourselves and what is ‘out there’ in our universe.” Negative spaces between his lines hint at the “nothingness” that is also at the heart of the universe, nodding to the ways in which what we cannot see is also deeply significant in how we perceive the cosmos.

“Solastalgia,” a term coined by environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht, is an “earth emotion,” a melancholic feeling evoked by changes to the land of one’s home. As climate change continues to intensify extreme events such as drought, rising sea levels, and devastating storms, the landscapes we come from continue to be irrevocably changed, even lost. This feeling of environmental distress and disorientation is a particularly poignant feeling to associate with Reveles’s return to El Paso. Solastalgia is the first solo museum show of Reveles’s work in his hometown since 2002.

Sam Reveles, Untitled #8, 2021.
Sam Reveles, Untitled #6, 2021.
Sam Reveles, Untitled #10, 2022.

Sam Reveles was born in El Paso and graduated from the Art Department at UTEP before completing his MFA in Painting at Yale University. He currently lives and works in Ireland and in El Paso. Solastalgia was made with support from Talley Dunn Gallery, Dallas, TX.