Similar to a song cycle, Peter Fagundo’s show “Pirate’s Booty” is a rumination on recurring motifs and subtextual themes. He makes sets of varying compositional structures, then voraciously adjusts their formal syntax. Almost all of the oil paintings are divided in half, which, in effect, makes each painting multiple pictures. Hung side-by-side in the gallery, the images mirror in similarity and shimmy in difference, creating a call-and-response between left, right, top and bottom.
Fagundo’s representational subject matter is most direct in the triplet “All My Friends,” “Blue Thunder” and “Let Me Roll.” In each, female figures frolic in a sunny landscape. Casual curls of dark-blonde hair fold around rosy red skin. Torsos and heads are absent, extending beyond the picture frame. Arms and legs jut acutely, creating active angular rhythms and sightlines that point in and out of the picture, stopping and restarting abruptly at the central seam of each composition. The flat linearity of the appendages contrasts with the supple curves of the figures’ butts. Decorative stripes, targets and wild cartoons ornament these bodies, giving them volume and idiosyncrasy while separating them from the background of unmodulated planes of color.
The surfaces are primarily thin, opaque color blocks, deftly arranged. In some instances, the wingbat tattoo doodles ornamenting Fagundo’s figures are made reductively by wiping out paint with solvent. He then layers transparent glazes over top, giving these areas a lean surface tension. In “Cracked Actor,” however, Fagundo deviates from this economic approach and smears gnarly arcs of thick, glossy, chunky brown impasto paint over a grid of primary colors.
There are a few departures from the figurative cycle. “An Occasional Dream” depicts a grid of black-and-white abstract sketches, a stripped-down catalogue of compositional possibility. Fagundo adds a beveled edge to each sketch, implying the thickness of stretched canvas that can or will be made in the future. It’s an anomaly, but it epitomizes the restless speed and invention of the iterative process Fagundo uses throughout the show.
Throughout the cycle, the painter’s subjective emphasis shifts from a sunny frolic toward something with darker undertones. As the figures are compositionally and metaphorically brought closer to the viewer, they further expand outside the limits of the frame, turning the pictures into hybrids of illustration and abstraction. As a result, the tattoo imagery becomes more pronounced, in particular with sets of wild, googly eyes. As these eyes desperately stare at the disembodied figures within the picture, the attention turns on the viewer. Once innocuous, they become insatiable, avatars of perceptual lust. This obsessive attention is compounded by a small nude figure that gleefully preens along bands of color once signifying sunburnt flesh. Their existential weight crescendoes pictorially in “Once I Had Love.” Here Fagundo’s maniacal perception finally turns in on itself, becoming a razor-sharp depiction of relentless visual desire.
Throughout the show, Fagundo’s image cycle considers the impulses built in his perception, as well as the myriad possibilities of his visual syntax. He effectively balances the restless drive inherent in his practice with breadth, invention and candor.
Peter Fagundo’s “Pirate’s Booty” shows through March 16 at Shane Campbell Gallery, 2021 South Wabash.