Watermelon, wine and bird droppings

BY NANCY ELSAMANOUDI | Eloy Arribas’s intensely intuitive energetic paintings are an odd mix of blobs and dabs of paint, blurred shapes, glued-on collage, scrawls, doodles and loose drawings. They include sun rays, colored checkerboard patterns, smoking heads, fertility goddesses, wine jugs and watermelon. There are also handwritten and block-printed words in Spanish and English (like “sandia,” “pajaros,” “salud,” “Ceres” and “wine”).

There is freshness to Arribas’s paintings, currently on view in his solo show “Frugivore Bats” at Freight + Volume gallery on the Lower East Side. There is a particular attitude in his work that seems to embody a kind of contagious, Bartleby-like stubbornness. It seems that, for him, being an artist means doing exactly what he wants to do without hesitation regardless of whether it makes sense to anyone else.

“Untitled” (2018), by Eloy Arribas, acrylic and collage on wooden panel, 14 in. x 11 in.

Arribas is able to incorporate disparate elements into his work without being arbitrary in his choices. This allows him to embrace a fertile contradiction in his work. He is able to draw freely from different points in history, from both the primitive world and from the contemporary world — from graffiti and advertising, as well as cave paintings and hieroglyphs.

There is an openness in the way he uses space in his paintings, a refusal to be overly precious in his use of materials, and an unaffected celebration of the ordinary in everyday life and things.

“Untitled” (2018), by Eloy Arribas, acrylic and collage on wooden panel, 16 in. x 12 in.

This generous approach is apparent in Arribas’s four untitled large-scale canvas paintings in the show. They are all a kind of dirty gray, calling to mind the grit of the city, and are constructed from roughly textured, pieced-together canvases that are sewn together. These paintings call to mind artists that Arribas seems to be in conversation with, like Twombly and Basquiat.

“Untitled,” by Eloy Arribas, acrylic and collage on canvas, 66 in. x 102 in.

In one of these grand-scale paintings, in a colorful diamond shape, a crudely drawn Venus of Willendorf-like figure, a checkerboard pattern, and the words “salud,” “vino,” and “sandia” are arranged in a loose composition. In another one of these large works, the composition consists of many disparate elements, like a stick figure painting on a collaged piece of paper, blue-and-white boxes, a line drawing of the sun, a smoking head and the words “wine” and “fuma porro.”

“Night” (2018), by Eloy Arribas, acrylic, India ink and wooden collage on wood panel, 72 in. x 48 in.

This embrace of various commonplace things can also be seen in some of the small-scale word paintings in the show. In one painting, the word “sandia,” which means “watermelon” in Spanish, appears above an awkward, square-ish slice of seedless watermelon. The painting is reminiscent of a sign outside a roadside fruit stand.

“Untitled” (2018), by Eloy Arribas, acrylic and collage on canvas, 132 in. x 88.5 in.

Another one of Arribas’s word paintings showcasing his sense of humor has the word “pajaros,” Spanish for “birds,” spelled out in black block letters at its bottom. The painting’s only color is five spots of paint in blue, green and red, and the painting mostly is filled with thick yellowish dabs of paint and a barely noticeable thinly drawn blue box. This work is both puzzling and intriguing. There are no visible birds in the painting; perhaps the colored dots are supposed to represent them. The white blobs are probably bird feces and this is, in fact, probably a painting of bird droppings.

Eloy Arribas’s “Frugivore Bats” is on view at Freight + Volume, at 97 Allen St., until Sept. 1, Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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