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Review: Mario Trejo/Elmhurst Art Museum

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"I Defy You," archival ink, enamel on panel , 24 x 18 , 2012 courtesy Roy Boyd Gallery

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Mario Trejo does  not practice science,  but he certainly shares its devotion to explore the infinities of time and space as he pushes the limits of human endurance, both mental and physical, to make as many marks as he possibly can, as if in response to the “I defy you” title of his current exhibition at the Elmhurst Art Museum. If all this mark-making were nothing more than compulsive, only the outsider or conceptual art worlds might  have any interest in the results, especially in his wall-size installation hung with thousands of mark-filled photo copies. But Trejo is also quite concerned with the patterns that his millions of marks  build into, and they are eye-popping gorgeous. Using archival materials that are much like scratchboard, he scratches or rubs through an ink-black surface to reveal the enamel-bright-white beneath it. It’s a technique that an illustrator might use to depict every single hair in the fur of a rabbit.  But unlike most illustration, there’s a sense of infinity, not just in the number of marks, but also in the energy of the entire pattern, and Trejo is not content to repeat them. Every piece seems to be the exploration of another part of our universe, like a distant galaxy as seen through the most powerful telescope or a molecular structure as revealed by an electron  microscope. And unlike the results of those technical procedures, his images don’t feel clinical and cold, but express his questing spirit, with a sense of optimism and wonder that’s the inverse of surrendering to compulsion. (Chris Miller)

Through June 9 at the Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 South Cottage Hill, Elmhurst, (630)834-0202

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