Bart Vargas is like a big warm hug. The artist, who celebrates his career with Seven Years Around the Sun at Anderson O’Brien Gallery, has developed a reputation as a genuinely great guy and warm-hearted member of the arts community.
The exhibit itself wraps around you like a big warm hug. Feeling more like an installation than an exhibit of 2D work, you are surrounded by a glow of color scaling the walls top to bottom—a rhythmic mix of pattern and color. The sheer quantity of pieces reiterates the breadth of Vargas’s work and the artist’s generous presence.
The work carries through the theme of his seven-year journey with works titled “Doorways”, “Portals”, “Gateways” and “Road Signs” serving as metaphorical markers of time. Vargas explains his journey as one of “education, personal and career growth, international travel and exhibits.” His aim is to offer a visual ambiguity to allow the audience “to reflect on my journey, the gallery’s journey and their own.”
Despite the repetitive nature of his work, within each series each piece has a distinct individuality, and as they come together the collective whole of the installation seems to fuse into a larger story. Vargas’s goal is to celebrate experience through color, pattern and movement, and with each alteration of line, color and shape he maps a unique part of life’s journeys.
One example is “Road Signs”. A grid of paint can lids and brushes, the repetition imitates the endless road signs that pop up along a trip, the constant reminders that ‘yes, you will get there someday.’ The final lid slips from its brush, the road sign signaling you’ve reached your destination, is always the most exciting.
It is often easy when considering color field, op art and abstraction to interpret or focus only on repetition and precision, but Vargas throws us a curve. The surface switches from matte to glossy to textured, the lines aren’t perfectly crisp and the fragments never quite seem to line up.
But even in spite of this irregularity or randomness, the work looks right. This represents who Bart Vargas is. He is the kind of artist that creates from his heart and finds light in what is imperfect and as a person, he does the same.
He finds the struggle to be part of the journey; a learning curve to seek out his next steps. His series of concentric squares, “Threshold” made me think about the word’s two conflicting meanings: 1) the opening into a new environment and 2) the limits we can reach. Vargas finds a way to make both of these true when we reflect on our own journeys.
Vargas’s next seven years are yet to be seen, but a twist in his presentation is assured. His love of found objects and familiar icons will emerge in new mediums, including ceramics. His commentary on politics, pop culture and history will continue to play a part in his manipulation of materials and color. No doubt, Vargas’s warmth will come through the way it does in his current body of work.
Seven Years Around the Sun is on view through September 1 at Anderson O’Brien, 1108 Jackson Street. For more information, visit aobfineart.com or bartvargas.com.