Manuel Pardo could not make it to the opening of Stardust at the CSUF Begovich Gallery so he was beamed in to give a talk at the opening….really. Like something out of a science fiction film the face and voice of New York-based artist Manuel Pardo greeted guests at the Saturday opening reception of his solo exhibition via Skype. (Skype is a free way of video chatting over the internet.) Gallery director and technology junkie Mike McGee introduced Pardo to the audience that awaited his face and led the artist through a discussion about his muse (his own mother), leaving Cuba, and the introduction of gel pens to the former painter…and it was really special. Hearing Pardo describe seeing his mother at the airport in New York is more impactful than rote facts about hometowns and subject matter. After the group talk the digital face of Manuel Pardo was wheeled into a corner of the gallery where the artist happily spoke with guests one-on-one. The idea was ingenious, the event was successful, and I expect to see more of this at future exhibits.
As for the show…
Stardust is the kind of work that makes you want to go home and draw. The figures have all the linear and gestural charm of a seven-year-old portraiture artist, and the glitzy, seductive gel pens take me back to a doodle on a notebook in eleventh grade chemistry class. These seemingly unsophisticated qualities are what make this series of women appealing to such a broad audience. However, Pardo is not just some well-represented doodler; he is an artist inspired by material, not afraid of color, with a great confidence in his use of symbolism and pattern.
Curator Andrea Harris-McGee incorporated key elements of Pardo’s work into the exhibition saturating the gallery with the artist’s personality. The walls are painted at least five different colors, at least three black pussycats are hidden throughout the space, and blow jobs are a reoccurring theme.
A key symbol entitled Trust which features a penis in a condom receiving a blow job appears on jewelry, drawings and in the middle of the gallery. Trust is Pardo’s way of including women whom he feels were left out of safe sex against aids efforts. Harris-McGee showed no restrain in including this potentially offensive image into the exhibit.
Manuel Pardo: Stardust is the culmination of an uninhibited artist, an uninhibited curator, and about forty other contributors. From what I hear it has been a labor of love.
Manuel Pardo: Stardust
CSUF Begovich Gallery
April 9-May 12
P.S. If Manuel Pardo drew a portrait of me, I think she would look something like this girl in the middle.