Pontone Gallery presents a new collection of work by the artist Emil Alzamora.
Born in Peru and educated in the USA, where his practice is based, he has built an impressive international curriculum vitae. Best known for his figurative sculpture, this exhibition also features paintings, a recent development.
Alzamora uses the portrait-bust as a format to explore themes of identity. He makes ceramic heads, moulded from clay, which are fired and glazed to achieve a rich and sensuous variety of colour and texture. In contrast to their art-historic derivation, the heads are deliberately generic. They avoid concepts of representation. The artist states “anyone can project themselves into the busts that I make”. The modular forms are subject to a disparate series of interventions and additions: representations of leaves, shrouds of material, helmets, mask-like structures and non-specific shards and lumps of matter are applied. Alzamora describes these accretions as visually analogous to the experiential “luggage” we carry, and how personality is built and shaped over time.
Pursuing his subject in painting, and explicitly rejecting brushes, Alzamora uses his hands to make images which are expressive, two-dimensional equivalents to his sculptures. Marks made by dragging the fingers through the paint coalesce to create coiled images of the figure, dynamically transformed by the collision between material and gesture.
This is a startling, and sometimes visceral, sequence. Elegant porcelain surfaces, glistening with metallic glazes are contrasted by hard-edged appendages, earthy masses and crumblings. Sinister wrappings and veils conceal appearance and hint at alienation. Amid all this we detect an underlying pre-occupation with beauty and refinement, evident in the skill of craftsmanship and attention to technique. Emil Alzamora's work is a sophisticated performance of sculptural process. Malleability and mutability are the touchstones of his practice.