On a recent, beautiful spring day I gathered a number of my more aesthetically inclined friends. I invited them on a walk to the downtown Church Street Station area of Orlando, to view an exhibit of works by the artist, Julio Sanchez at the “Walk Through Gallery.”
I love observing people's reactions to art; and am always fascinated to hear what they have to say.
When seeing Julio's work, the extroverts among my friends, expressed their opinions without restraint. My more reflective and introverted friends, required some drawing out. I quietly watched their examing stares, and afterward, with some sincere questioning, got them to share their honest thoughts and reactions.
I was pleased in that they were curious, engaged, and thoroughly drawn into the creative world of Julio Sanchez; taking time to study and comment on various little details that caught their eye. For several of the works, the reaction was strong and immediate.
Encountering Julio Sanchez' work is like suddenly turning a corner and stepping into the plaza of a boisterous, tropical bazaar. Vibrant colors jump out at you; unexpected figures appear, and everywhere, new faces emerge from a visual maze of abstract forms.
The immediate impact of the work, “Marks of Hope” upon me, was akin to my reaction when seeing Edvard Munch's “The Scream” for the very first time. And remarkably, it drew the very same responses from one of my most discerning friends, who likewise compared it to that powerful piece by Munch.
“Marks of Hope” is a standing complex figure against a green background; and is surrounded by words of great import for the artist. But it is the immediate and visceral response to the figure that makes this such a stunning piece.
Mr. Sanchez love of music is communicated time and again, in the motif of a guitar. It plays prominently in his blue-toned work, “Music for the city ” since it captures the soothing and beautiful nature of that instrument, and even more, the tones of blue, embody the spirit of life in a city.
These particular pieces by Mr. Sanchez, are not the pastoral, quiet images of some idyllic rural countryside. These works are those of a person, grabbing the very pulse of life, the blood, the red marrow, and thrusting it onto a canvas. It is that sort of spontaneous desire to capture an intense immediate impression and vision; to freeze it raw and live, before it ever has a chance to fade or escape, that make Julio Sanchez' work so remarkable.
It is easy to see how this artist was inspired by kindred spirits, like Picasso and Basquiat, because those painters too, intuited the power and vitality of the primitive image and form.
Sanchez' works embody the warm blooded spirit of a man, born in Puerto Rico and growing up in the vibrant Dominican Republic. It is no surprise Sanchez identifies with his link to Taino heritage, the indigenous Indians of that region, that he should so completely intuit the power and imagery of an early culture. We see this understanding in his recurring motif's of the hand and the face, two of the most expressive and communicative aspects of the human body.
It is perhaps, the somewhat tragic fate of the Tainos people which is best captured in a more complex and detailed work, “I was born Artist I.”
I for one, could not help but be drawn into that piece since it hinted of some far deeper understanding of a culture long ago crushed and lost.
What I look forward to seeing in his future works, is where Mr. Sanchez takes his current interest in mixed media forms. Are we about to witness a more sculptural turn and treatment of his artistic creations? If so, that could prove quite exciting.
This is not the sort of artist, to be overlooked and ignored. Nor is this the sort of man, one would ever find settling in, to some comfortable and repetitive style. It is the work of an explorer and adventurer. It is a person you expect to surprise you, and challenge you. Above all, Mr. Sanchez does not care what you think of his art, but instead listens only to the voice of his inner Muse. He paints directly from his heart, and he most certainly paints with passion.
Herbert Pleiman Jr. is an artist, sculptor, writer and dentist currently residing in Orlando, FL. He signs his own abstract works under the pseudonym, CHEN.