Give a Dog a Bad Name and Hang Him: Mario Ayala's Airbrush Technique on Display @ Ever Gold Projects, SF
It feels like Mario Ayala is the perfect emerging artist for the 25th Anniversary of Juxtapoz. His auto flake and acrylic works fit into the history of early outsider and car culture practices, with each canvas full of Southern California and pop-culture details. His newest solo show, Give a Dog a Bad Name and Hang Him, may be his strongest body of work to date, featuring airbrushed paintings on canvas and works on paper that solidify his position as a true West Coast artist to watch.
Ever Gold [Projects] presents Give a Dog a Bad Name and Hang Him, the gallery’s second solo exhibition with Los Angeles based artist Mario Ayala. Featuring airbrushed paintings on canvas and works on paper, this new body of work employs a type of figurative language in which elements coordinate and contradict themselves narratively and spatially. Ayala applies this figurative language to social histories, exploring representations of brownness and Latinx identity within the field of painting, and in the way visual representations are able to echo a discursive reality.
Ayala’s paintings combine sensibilities, connecting disparate images and aesthetic gestures. Ayala credits his father as his primary influence, as he grew up watching him work on cars and motorcycles, and receiving ballpoint pen drawings from him as gifts when he returned home from work as a truck driver. Attending car shows and swap meets in Los Angeles, Ayala was exposed to a variety of painting techniques that are distinct from traditional art world methods: car painting and airbrushing are the artist’s earliest and most poignant references for creative expression. Ayala utilizes these familiar techniques and images in ways that are distinct from their original applications—as a simplified example, Ayala utilizes auto-body painting techniques designed to emphasize or reinforce the physical structure of a car in ways that distort and transform his subjects, or applies the techniques to objects that do not typically garner this kind of elevating treatment.
Although arguably not breaking news, it seems reasonable to reinforce here: Latinx creative endeavors—in music, visual art, tattooing, car culture, and many other areas—permeate popular culture in the U.S. more and more thoroughly, both autonomously and through widespread cultural appropriation. Ayala’s work can be seen as a kind of reclamation with twists, as it embraces iconic images and stylistic gestures while suggesting that these structures are much larger and more dynamic than a common pop cultural representation might convey. Ayala is similarly interested in visual representations of translation and the slippages that can occur with language. In a painting titled Insurance Claim, a sad old dog is seen busting through a steering wheel with text reading “GUYCO” instead of “GEICO,” making reference to the complexity of translation and to Los Angeles’s particular bootleg culture in which counterfeit items attain validation in their own right, both as reasonable stand-ins for authentic items and as mashups that harness the impact of high end branding in the creation of new hybrid forms.
Ayala deconstructs and expands common perceptions of his chosen categories of images and aesthetics, offering enough of the original material to represent the traditions from which these forms originate while recasting images and techniques in new roles. Hybridizing images and uniting the incongruous, Ayala builds a visual language capable of mirroring the physical and social transformations of the landscape; Ayala’s compositions are only as strange and layered as the world we live in.