Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Mandarin and the Street Artist

Robert Boyd

One of the coolest and yet most unexpected collaborations I've seen recently is Skywriting by Aaron Parazette and Daniel Anguilu on the side of Lawndale.

Daniel Anguilu and Aaron Parazette, Skywriting, 2013

Think about it. On one hand, you have Parazette, a professor at the University of Houston, a Core Fellow (1990-92), the Art League's 2012 Texas Artist of the Year. He has a graduate degree in art! Parazette paints geometric abstractions, for god's sake! The kind of things that have been confusing and occasionally enraging the homme moyen sensuel for over a century! He is the living embodiment of an elite, intellectual artist.

On the other hand, you Daniel Anguilu. His art career began when he started painting the sides of railroad cars. Now he has the quintessential working class Ralph Kramden kind of job in mass transit--he drives a light rail train. And he still does graffiti--just with permission now.

For the two to collaborate meant two different art worlds had to meet. But this meeting wasn't as unlikely as it may have seemed on the surface, mainly because the success and exposure within the art world that Anguilu has gotten. His murals are highly visible in Midtown, which is also a center of Houston's art world. He's had gallery shows and was one of the featured artists in a recent show at the Station Museum. (Even Texans linebacker Connor Barwin commissioned a mural from him for his condo.)

Daniel Anguilu and Aaron Parazette, Skywriting, 2013

And it turns out that the work works really well together. The two artists obviously agreed on a palette beforehand. Parazette's portion, though completely abstract, is sort of a landscape. There is a horizon line (and a sense of one-point perspective), there is a blue sky. Anguilu's part rests on the horizon line, extending above and below it, and because of this appears as landscape--perhaps rounded hills. That is part of the contrast between Anguilu and Parazette--Anguilu's work consists of interlocking curves while Parazette is all straight lines. Another difference is that Anguilu's work here (and in general) involves heavy black outlines, sort of like Georges Rouault. Parazette in contrast lays his areas of color next to one another with no outline.

Parazette's work ends up containing Anguilu's. But because of the density and fine detail of Anguilu, it competes equally for the eye's attention. And that is one thing I liked about this piece. They are competing visually. It's a collaboration, but it isn't meant to be a seamless blending of the two artist's work. Each has his own part that is highly recognizable as his. Neither surrender's his artistic vision to the other. Some collaborations are incoherent, and some are bland approximations of the solo work of each of the collaborators. Neither of those faults is present here. The elements created by each artists are wholly distinct and yet work beautifully in juxtaposition.


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