Vivid faces carved in granite 

The uniqueness of “Awakenings,” an exhibition of granite sculpted heads by Mexican artist Jose Velazquez at Polanco Gallery, lies in the poetic integration of meaning and stone.

The stone itself — its shape, coarseness and texture — plays a significant role not only in determining the nature of the finished pieces, but also their power.

Although Velazquez, a self-taught artist from Guadalajara, has themes for each piece in his first show in The City, they are far from literal descriptions.

The 22 works, all granite, except one in marble, have a mythic sensibility, encouraging the viewer to feel, rather than intellectualize, their ultimate meaning.

There is much variety, too. Some heads are lying down. Others stand high and are hollow, reminiscent of pre-Hispanic masks.

Most are relatively small, 9 to 11 inches. Combined with the stone’s texture, the compact size enhances their vigor and gives them the richness one finds in pre-Hispanic sculpture.

“Conscience,” one of the show’s most powerful and expressive pieces, makes a personal statement. Its overpowering eyes look out at the viewer accusingly. But as if to balance the harshness of the face with softness, the artist carved hands that caress the sides of the head.

Many of the sculptures have interesting, original reverse views, which are not literal rear views. The reverse of “Conscience” has a smaller face, sadder and more tragic, with larger hands touching the face.


IF YOU GO

Awakenings

Where: Polanco Gallery, 393 Hayes St., S.F.

When: 1 to 6 p.m. Mondays, 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays; closes July 15

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 252-5753, www.polancogallery.com

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Murray Paskin

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