Pantoja’s latest palette

Arts / Article

Jorge Pantoja “Self Defense.”

Jorge Pantoja lives for his art. This might sound like a cliché, but many of the trappings of modern American life don’t seem to interest him much – making paintings out of a tiny apartment, often in the wee hours of the night, is his passion. This is evident again in his second solo outing at Carol Jazzar Contemporary Art, “Endpapers,” which is filled with truly special works that while somewhat familiar, are also a departure of sorts for Pantoja.

"Over the Hills and Far Away"

“Over the Hills and Far Away.”

The familiar: the incredible color, and the beautiful-yet-disturbing imagery, a dreamy quality that carries nightmarish qualities as well. But unlike the very tightly composed and crafted pieces of the past, these new works on paper are more fluid, more abstract, with pastel colors swirling around the deeper tones. Also, there are clear references to a Caribbean heritage that were not always so apparent before from the Cuban-born painter. Creatures and stick figures populate some of the scapes, along with shark fins, and in one case severed heads. In fact the violence underlying many of the works takes a while to comprehend, although the titles may help: “Blind Gladiator,” “Creeps Waiting,” and “Self Defense.”

The last painting is the center piece of the exhibit, the largest and placed in the middle of the back wall. The intense rose-red and orange paint splashed all around the central black figure makes for a gorgeous palette, but this is no easy piece. Along with a club-wielding attacker, there is a raw sexuality present, as it is in other paintings here as well – erect penises on faceless men, and primitive expressions of power. In many of the works, a forceful sun bursts through somewhere, blazing down.

"Still Freaky After All These Years"

“Still Freaky After All These Years.”

However, one painting is almost colorless, with a feeling of a snowed in landscape, a barren world, titled “Over the Hills and Far Away.” Little splotches of red do pop up on the white and gray background, twice creating the neck chains that pull a stick man, and a dog, over the hill.

In the middle of the gallery space are a set of books with works and doodlings from Pantoja, some of them prepatory exercises for this show. Take your time, there is a lot to explore here.

“Endpapers” from Jorge Pantoja runs through Feb. 10 at Carol Jazzar Contemporary Art, 158 N.W. 91st St., Miami; www.cjazzart.com.