“Alienation exists between ourselves and the very real natural world that still exists outside our plastic, plaster, and concrete constructions” -Guy Colwell
La Luz de Jesus Gallery is pleased to present The Wayward Ape, a series of paintings by Figurative Social Surrealist, Guy Colwell. The paintings examine the ever-present disconnect between human evolution and the natural order of the planet. The Wayward Ape is on view from April 5 – 28, 2019, and below are excerpts taken from Colwell’s recent interview about the exhibition at the gallery.
When I put humans and animals together in a painting I’m trying to show that humans don’t know what to do. It is as though they are encountering a mystery and can’t react because it is outside their experience and understanding. Of course in some of the pictures, Institutional Warthog, for example, I try to explore the primal terror that most of us would experience if we met one of these dangerous creatures. Sometimes I show people reacting as if a wild animal might become their pet, such as in Woman on a Bighorn. This is to highlight our ignorance about the true nature of these creatures. Sometimes the humans and animals are simply coexisting in space as in Painter with Genet to emphasize the way we have become unconscious of our shared existence with them on our small planet.
Something about primates is especially engaging to me. It is probably the fact that they are more closely related to us than other species. I have made many drawings [and] paintings of monkeys, apes and extinct pre-human hominids. I have at times avidly studied the science of human evolution and paleoanthropology. The painting Primates, my most recent oil painting done especially for the show at La Luz de Jesus, was first conceived with a focus on a group of the Guenons. As I did the preliminary drawing it kept expanding to include a broader and broader slice of the extant monkey species. I started adding some apes and prosimians and even homo sapiens.
The animals in the paintings are meant to be surprising surrealistic intruders in the places where they have been excluded. They are not fugitives from zoos, but wild creatures, representatives of the natural reality from which we emerged but which we have pushed as far away from us as possible. This blotting out of an awesome and terrible beauty from our consciousness is the true theme of these paintings.
Guy Colwell was born in Oakland, California in 1945 and studied briefly at California College of Arts and Crafts where after two years decided to pursue a position at Mattel as a sculptor. Soon thereafter, Colwell was sentenced to two years in Federal prison on McNeil Island after refusing the Vietnam War draft. After his release, Colwell returned to CCAC as a maintenance worker and continued to paint outside of the realm of the institution. From 1972 – 1978 Colwell’s poignant comic, Inner City Romance depicting racial, and sociopolitical injustices debuted and developed a cult following. He lived for a while in the Good Times Commune and worked on the underground newspaper they produced. Starting in 1980, he also worked for Rip off Press but left to join the Great Peace March for Global Disarmament in 1986 where he made route maps for the march and sketched daily life of the peaceful protestors. He returned to Rip Off press at their new facility in Auburn and explored the Sierra mountains for subject matter until 1992. Colwell never stopped painting and has exhibited his socio-political and controversial paintings extensively in the Bay Area. Colwell’s work has been collected by the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and Pritikin Museum in San Francisco.