RIVIERA MAGAZINE, JUNE 2010
Contained Passion at SALT Fine Art
Large and colorful sculptural cabinets by Argentine painter Lucas Risé is not what one might expect at a fairly small Laguna Beach art gallery. But then, Salt Fine Art, a venue specializing in Latin American art has defied norms ever since it opened last fall, and this crop of three-dimensional, embellished wardrobes crafted in Laguna Beach and Argentina is no exception. Viewers will find labeling the works a challenge, and that is just as the artist, who disdains the description of “artist,” likes it. “I think of myself as a painter. Artist—that’s too pretentious a label,” he says.
Perhaps it’s best to just think of them as unique works that straddle boundaries between the decorative and functional while also engaging eye and mind in the manner of geometry. Then again, if he is inclined to describe his work, he points to the likes of Jackson Pollock, who used regular enamel paint and followed his instincts. In something of an aesthetic turnabout, he says that he also counts Russian Constructivism—the visual antithesis of Jack the Dripper, to say the least, among his inspirations. Then again, he points to his childhood when circus performers in their colorful garb and wacky conveyances kept him enthralled. “I try to capture the color, the joy and the skill of the circus in my work as well,” he adds.
Yet, such unlikely juxtaposition of visual idiom somehow makes sense: If one studies the intricately carved and painted wooden forms affixed to cabinets that he buys ready made and then embellishes with intricately band sawed and painted forms, a rhythm of movement and color becomes apparent. It becomes easy to visualize him “painting with a band saw,” as he puts it.
Risé’s creativity springs from a spontaneous mind reared on music, science and freedom to experiment from a young age on “I painted on everything—childish forms without message or meaning, just things I saw or made up and I really haven’t changed all that much. Nothing I do has a message now either,” he says. “I paint with brushes or with a band saw. Only form and color matter—and craftsmanship.”
As soon as he came of age, he began, with the support of his family, to travel. Europe, South Africa, the United States where he, no cliché, fell in love with Laguna Beach and its artsy vibe. Yet, he’s also left his heart in Barcelona, where he said that he found a culture akin to Argentina.
His artsy family not withstanding, Lucas was the typical Latin American kid obsessed with soccer and, for his 12th birthday Lucas Risé wanted a new ball and a tee-shirt commemorating his fave team. What he got instead was a set of weird looking long-handled brushes and four cans of oil-based enamel paint. “Uh-oh, they want to put me to work,” thought the younger son of a math/geography teacher and a pianist. Little did he know then that he was about to embark on a prodigious career that began with him painting what he calls “advertising signs,” a stylistic mix of signage and street art.
Even though he tried his hand at formal training in graphic design, he remained largely self-taught and crafts his armoires either at home in Argentina or in Laguna Beach.
“I buy my cabinets at fleamarkets or wherever I can find them, as long as they are well made,” he says. But, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a wooden container. He also utilized an antique icebox recently.
At age 32, Risé looks like the Hollywood version of a free spirit: Longish brown hair, blue eyes, a tan and a slender physique. “I can not stay in the same place too long,” he says. For now he’s still in Laguna but he’s already planning trips to Asia, back to Africa and intermittently to Argentina to connect with his close-knit family. He also wants to explore Russia.
Travel keeps him from getting bogged down in the material world which he disdains as much as he does labels. He does not own a car, getting around on foot or by cruiser. “When I think about owning things, it’s time to move on,” he says.
He tends to number smaller projects and if he signs work, he eschews his given name for “sans parapluie,” French for “without an umbrella.” He also confesses that his cabinets have not been featured in a commercial space before. “I could not part with them, I just made them for myself,” he said.
Yet, he hopes that the selection at Salt will sell and thus end a creative chapter for him. “The gallery convinced me to show them,” he explains. “Through them I have found a focus, even if the last ten years sometimes felt like 100. Now I can move on, to new things,” he says.