With a mixture of passion and bold energy, Mexican-American artist Victor Hugo Zayas (b. 1961) presented his expressionistic paintings of figures, landscapes, and cityscapes, and linear, abstract sculptures in Mi Obra. Zayas, who lives and works in Los Angeles, unveiled his new sculpture series made from more than two tons of destroyed guns; he created the works as a symbol of peace in conjunction with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Gun Buyback Program, which aims to take illegal firearms off of the streets of L.A.
Victor Hugo Zayas: Mi Obra was on display in Laguna Art Museum’s Steele and California galleries and featured paintings and sculptures created in the last twenty years by contemporary Los Angeles artist Victor Hugo Zayas. “Mi obra” means “my work” in Spanish, Zayas’s native language.
With a keen sense of observation, Zayas works swiftly. His subject matter encompasses the figure, landscape, and cityscape, and the breadth and generosity of his paints cover canvas and, surprisingly, paper. Looking to artworks by European masters such as Velázquez, Titian, Rembrandt, Fragonard, and Goya, Zayas has developed an expressionist style of paint handling that renders landscape as visceral, moody, and passionate.
The exhibition also included Zayas’s sculptures made of metal; these largely linear and abstract works convey a sense of kinetic movement as they draw attention to form. The expressionist energy seen in the paintings is transformed in the formal composition and negative spaces of his sculptures.
Specially for Mi Obra, Zayas created a new sculpture series made out of more than two tons of destroyed guns from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Gun Buyback Program. After the exhibition closed, the sculptures were donated to the LAPD. In partnership with the LAPD and numerous community and faith based organizations, the Gun Buyback Program encourages individuals to surrender their firearms with no questions asked. Using these guns, which were capable of causing violence, Zayas’s sculptures symbolized peace.
“The LAPD is proud to be a partner in this ambitious and inspirational project,” says Commander Andrew J. Smith, commanding officer of the LAPD’s Public Information Office. “Removing weapons from the street and transforming them into artwork is another step towards making our communities safer.”
Born in 1961 and raised in Mazatlan, Mexico, Zayas came to the United States in 1979. He graduated from United States International University in 1981 with a BFA and was awarded a Robert Kanyon Memorial Scholarship to attend Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where he earned another BFA in 1986. He taught at Loyola Marymount University from 1987 to 1993. In 2005, Zayas created the Maestro Fine Arts Program in collaboration with Art Center College of Design, underwritten by the James Irvine Foundation. Along with Errol Gerson, Zayas founded the Dwight Harmon Memorial Scholarship Fund at Art Center. Zayas has lived and worked in Los Angeles for the past thirty years.
Victor Hugo Zayas: Mi Obra was guest-curated by Gregorio Luke. An expert on Mexican and Latin American art and culture, Luke is also a compelling speaker and lecturer. He is the former Director of the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, former Consul of Cultural Affairs of Mexico in Los Angeles, and the First Secretary of the Embassy of Mexico in Washington, D.C.
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