Beauty and ruin

By GREG COOK  |  July 30, 2014

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'Metropolis y Orillas.'

In his 2006 painting Metropolis y Orillas (Metropolis and Banks), a waterfall cascades down a leafy mountainside into a still green river clogged with junked cars. Stacked buses and trucks form towers; a woman stands painting atop a bus that has become an island in the river. She has a canoe tied up nearby with old master canvases perched on the seats — Géricault’s 1819 The Raft of the Medusa from the Louvre in Paris and Bouguereau’s Dante and Virgil in Hell. It feels like the world after some apocalypse.

Patiño’s paintings are “super-symbolic,” he says. “Why this over-exploitation of our planet, our resources, our water?” he asks. “We change everything for oil companies. It’s critical, especially now with this crisis of global warming, of climate change. It’s terrible.”

Other paintings reimagine the advertising mecca of New York’s Times Square or fill Julian’s restaurant in Providence with a cast of creative friends, many gathered around a table that holds a miniature river brimming with fish.

In San Francisco Art Studio (1996-2004), Patiño paints himself standing on a street corner near the grand plaza in front of the Church and Convent of St. Francis in Quito, Ecuador. He’s trying to sell a stack of miniature autos. His first wife appears twice — standing in the intersection painting the church and then lounging on a sofa with her eyes open, watching us, modeling for an unfinished painting of her waiting on an easel in the street. In the square, a vendor sells old master paintings and kids (Patiño’s) jump rope. In the distance, a man in a priest’s vestments but no pants leads a sheep up the street. The odd happenings, the vivid details, the desire with which Patiño paints his ex, have a dream logic — you can’t quite make sense of it, but all feels real and solid and right.

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