In case you don't know already, Clare Rojas has grown to be one of the Bay Area's most prolific and well-known painters. But like other artists in the scene here, Rojas plays music too. Under the pseudonym Peggy Honeywell she has released two CDs of her own bluegrass/country music on the Galaxia label.
It comes as no surprise then to see that she has devoted an entire wall of her show at Gallery Paule Anglim to various painted musical instruments. On the surfaces of the banjos and tambourines are quaint little painted figures and geometrical patterns. While the show is fun to look at, some of the paintings appear to mean something and others seem, well, decorative. Along with the instruments are numerous other painted panels and objects. It is quite possible that for Rojas, folk art is a style as much as it is a genre. In these days of post-modernism, when an artist works in a style, it may have little or nothing to do with the genre to which it belongs. For example, it is unlikely that the religiously pious Quaker or Shaker artists (whose work Rojas references stylistically) would have painted a picture of a naked man (Untitled) looking at his own hairy ass in a mirror while videotaping it.
But Rojas does allude to the more mystical origins of the primitive style in which she works. For example, there is a painting (Untitled) of a woman whose heart appears to be radiating beams of light or energy towards a tree. The tree has pointy leaves all over it, but some of the leaves are shaped like hearts too. That painting is related to another one (Untitled) in which a red haired woman with wings stands before a huge, flowering plant. On the oversized leaves are two fox-like animals with hair as red as hers. Does it mean anything in particular? Does it matter? Stylistically it resembles the work of untrained visionary and outsider artists. Rojas, however, went to the Rhode Island School of Design and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Still, Rojas' blending of folksy music with a folksy painting style makes a lot of sense. These days art schools are churning out more and more young artists who are big on ideas yet produce very little. Her show at Paule Anglim is a good demonstration of what happens when someone is good at something and sticks with it. Such a work ethic has gotten her exhibitions at the legendary Deitch Projects in New York and a place in the critically acclaimed Beautiful Losers show that traveled to several international venues. Rojas' P.S. Hurray! is an uncommonly good show and definitely won't disappoint.
P.S. Hurray! is at Gallery Paule Anglim through September 29, 2007.