EVERYTHING IS SOMETHING
June 1 - July 8, 2023
Opening Reception: Thursday, June 1, 5:30-7:30 PM
Dolby Chadwick Gallery is thrilled to announce Everything is Something, an exhibition of new paintings by Emilio Villalba.
In this exhibition, Villalba speaks a language all his own. Bold color and expressive forms permeate his new work as the vitality of a lived life emanates from the canvas. Each object or figure guides you through the world as viewed by Villalba. Portraits of people close to him are rendered with warmth and intimacy in clever abstractions, while collage-like compositions explode in a playful flash of color. Each piece is imbued with levity, curiosity, and joy.
The sentiment at the heart of the exhibition, Everything is Something, speaks not only to the energy and vibrant density of the work, but also to Villalba’s spirit as an artist. He is inspired by everything around him, from license plates to avocados to the swoop of his wife’s nose. In the titular series of paintings, Villalba paints “everything but the kitchen sink,” leaving no negative space as he layers and interweaves objects found around his home, on the street, and in vintage stores. You are inclined to stand at the canvas until everything reveals itself to you — fried eggs, five dollar bills, fingers and toes, an Alice Neel mug, a Miller High Life, loafers and Converse, a basketball, a Mickey Mouse watch. What at first seems like a random assortment is carefully composed and harmonious, resonant in color and texture, and representative of a singular world. In digesting these paintings, the viewer can feel the vibrant dynamism, individuality, and comfort of Villalba’s world, and begin to recognize the warmth of home.
Villalba’s compositions are almost postmodern as he layers images, objects, and references. Michelle with Earrings, for instance, is an abstracted portrait of his wife, but the cross earrings she wears belong to the singer of a band Villalba once saw. The motorcycle in Crossroads belongs to his friend, but Villalba paints himself as the driver at the forefront of the painting. The flat, cartoonish background is inspired by video games the artist used to play, and in looking at the painting, you can almost hear the electronic music droning as the scene unfolds. Villalba’s paintings are thus curations of his world at a particular moment. We are teased into a game of I-Spy; the artist’s fixations become patterns or clues for the viewer as they dive into the work and the world that grows out of it.
Villalba’s portraits and self-portraits have a trademark dimensionality in their abstractions: cheekbones and noses are demarcated by single strokes of contrasting color, and light is portrayed as a stream of sharp white on the face. Each confident brushstroke is accentuated by ridges of texture, creating a topographical surface quality on the canvas. This texture is an example of the games Villalba plays in the creation of his work. He throws a wrench in his process: a challenge to thicken the application of paint, to limit his palette, to paint an object and immediately paint over it. When you come face to face with these paintings, you can feel this humor and lightheartedness. Villalba’s career is an evolution of constant exploration; of intense dedication suffused with freedom and playfulness.
Villalba’s work has a clear influence from David Park and other Bay Area Figurative painters, but his paintings are really an amalgam of references much wider in breadth. He pulls from the quirky portraiture of Alice Neel and Joan Brown. He adopts black outlines from Max Beckmann and compositions from Richter’s cityscapes. Languages so disparate that you would seldom expect to find them in the same sentence are united through Villalba’s hand. He is a self-proclaimed “sponge,” finding inspiration everywhere he looks.
Over the years, Villalba has worked along the spectra of darkness and light, realism and abstraction, minimalism and maximalism. This exhibition is the culmination of this journey; each work is in harmony, speaking with the same voice. There is an honesty and simplicity in even the most complex of his compositions: in the touch of paint, the palette, and the careful observation of his surroundings. What is apparent in Villalba’s new paintings is his admiration and fascination for the world around him – people, places, and things.
Emilio Villalba was born in 1984 in Chula Vista, CA. He earned a BFA in Animation from the Art Institute of California, Santa Ana followed by an MFA from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Villalba has exhibited extensively in San Francisco and New York and has had multiple collaborations with the international fashion house Valentino. This is his first solo show at Dolby Chadwick Gallery.