Eduardo Sarabia, May 12-June 23, 2001, at I-20 Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
There is a quality in Eduardo Sarabia's debut show, just opened at Chelsea's I-20 Gallery, that's quite rare in the art we see today: sweetness.
From the hardscrabble of his own barrio life, Sarabia constructs a confection as light, tan and jiggly as flan and just as scrumptious. Bereft of cynicism and irony, Eduardo builds from the scraps around him a mountain of Latino love.
The centerpiece here, bearing the delightful title, Drifting on a Memory, is a float from those surreal parades they do in Los Angeles, such as the Hollywood Christmas Parade or the Tournament of Roses.
A horn of plenty disgorges a diamond ring, a convertible, nubile lovers and other temptations. Eduardo's reverie also inhabits a couch on which he's stenciled a grubby downtown L.A. studded with imaginary beaches; or he dreams of Dodger slugger Raul Mondesi as a valued member of his family tree.
Smaller pieces depict the animals that locally illustrate various drugs (A rooster is "heroin," a parrot "cocaine") or lazily follow sensuous lines of green ivy that Latinos employ to camouflage the eyesores of urban L.A.
From the gravely rooted installation arises a positive feeling of hope and innocence, perhaps consistent with this young talent's matriculation to the Otis College of Art, perhaps just the residue of Sarabia's airy painterly touch.
For contrast, walk into I-20's project room and gaze at Patrick Thorne's Not Now, Kato, a well drawn, but lead-footed attack on Los Angeles, which even contains the words "I hate L.A.," reflecting the knee-jerk sentiment of millions.
According to the gallery owner Paul Judelson, Sarabia doesn't mind Thorne's effort, and why not, as Thorne merely underscores Sarabia's peculiarly sublime take on the difficulties of L.A. life.
The soft light and open left coast sensibility of I-20's space, exquisitely tweaked by architect Robin Osler, sensibly integrates the disparate building blocks of Sarabia's installation. The whole shebang is a visual joy.
Sarabia is a promising discovery with much ahead of him, a pleasant harbinger for summer doldrums and the next art season that looms beyond them.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).