‘Artist’s Evolution’ showcases Fernando Reyes’ breadth

Local artist Fernando Reyes — a banker turned painter and printmaker — has been doing exhilarating things with paper-cutout collage.

“Fernando Reyes: An Artist’s Evolution 1991-2017,” at the Mexican Museum in The City through March 18, showcases paintings, drawings, prints and collages by the Oakland-based Reyes, who grew up in Fresno and liked to draw as a boy but began his professional life in the banking business.

For 17 years, he worked at Bank of America, with his artistic aspirations inactive. In the late 1980s, Reyes rediscovered his earlier calling. He embarked on a career as a self-taught artist and later was formally trained.

Reyes’ foremost artistic focus is the human figure and body language. He uses traditional methods, including working with live models, enabling him to capture what he has described as the human body’s beauty, strength and sensuality.

He has cited Henri Matisse and Egon Schiele as influences, and one can see hints of artists and movements as diverse as Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso, Lucian Freud and the German expressionists and abstract expressionists in his work.

Piece in the exhibit representing his early years as an artist include the realist oil painting “Fayne” (1995) and a self-portrait (1995) in heavily applied charcoal. The subjects appear to possess psychological as well as physical substance in both.

More recent representational works reveal his distinctive expressive style, which often involves bright colors, entwining figures, decorative patterns and sinuous lines.

“Frolic” (2012), an oil-on-wood piece, features female nudes with overlapping limbs, in complementary oranges and blues. The male figure is on striking display in “Les Hommes” (2006), an intricately designed color woodcut.

But the Matisse “Cut-Outs” show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2014 turned Reyes on to the possibilities of cutout-paper collage and changed his artistic direction.

Inspired by Matisse, Reyes has been creating dynamic works in which he assembles handprinted-paper cutouts into collaged imagery, some abstract.

Fernando Reyes’ 2017 “Tribute” is a bold 60-inch square canvas of hand-printed paper cutouts. (Courtesy Fernando Reyes)

Highlights include “Tribute” (2017), an imposing 60-by-60-inch mosaic-like composition, and “Beckon” (2017), a somewhat smaller showstopper which contains painstakingly thought=out collage work and a surprising emotional quality. With its eruptive look and seemingly spontaneously created arrangement of shapes and colors, it brings the paintings of the abstract expressionists to mind.

In other works, Reyes combines collage with painting. These include “Reflecting Paper” (2016), in which fetchingly pattered handmade paper shares the foreground with a seated nude.

Landscapes, urban scapes and selections from series featuring trees and tattooed figures also are on view.

Reyes’ work has been exhibited regionally and nationally and has been acquired for the Alameda County Arts Collection and collections of Stanford University Medical Center, the Amoco Corporation, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, and other sites.

Fernando Reyes: An Artist’s Evolution 1991-2017
Where: Mexican Museum, Building D, Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd., S.F.
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays; closes March 18
Admission: Free
Contact: (415) 202-9700, www.mexicanmuseum.org

Leslie Katz

San Francisco Examiner’s arts and entertainment editor Leslie Katz has been assigning, editing and/or writing news stories about the Bay Area’s rich cultural scene since 1997. Reach her at (415) 359-2727 or lkatz@sfexaminer.com.

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