Art review: Martin Durazo ‘Plata O Plomo’ at CB1Gallery


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Artists with great facility never want their works to look facile. So they go to great lengths to make them look unpolished, casual, even crude. This often makes them more vigorously authentic. But sometimes it backfires.

At CB1Gallery, Martin Durazo’s mixed-media exhibition, titled ‘Plata O Plomo,’ does all of the above. The high points far outnumber the pitfalls.


Durazo’s 19 variously sized paintings almost always strike the right balance between visual intelligence and slapdash manufacture.

The centerpiece is a towering tour de force that transforms the high-ceilinged space into a secular cathedral. On a 16-by-12-foot expanse of silver-coated insulation board, Durazo has used homemade stencils to spray paint the basic shape of a volcano. Its dark interior is adorned with irregular triangles, a fractured pentagram and the shadowy silhouettes of nocturnal animals. Durazo also has hurled sharp metal throwing stars into its surface, creating an unholy altarpiece to self-destructive urges and the fireworks that sometimes erupt from the struggle to contain them.

Two tabletop sculptures resemble big broken crystals, their symmetry shattered to form more jagged edges. A third, constructed of interlocking disks of mirrored and clear Plexiglas, comes off as a misplaced display case. All three lack the menacing intrigue of Durazo’s paintings.

His video, viewed through a peephole in a fake stone on the floor, is heavy-handed. It shows a woman, from the neck down, cutting the flesh off the head of a butchered pig. The audio is Marlon Brando as Kurtz in ‘Apocalypse Now.’

Brando’s voice sends chills down the spine. But Durazo’s cheesy remake adds nothing to the original. Worse, it takes away from his own sharply calibrated exhibition, which is otherwise lean, naked and loaded.

-- David Pagel

CB1Gallery, 207 W. 5th St., L.A., (213) 806-7889, through Nov. 14. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.


Photo: Martin Durazo’s ‘Without Judgment.’ Credit: CB1 Gallery