Our scanning sensors recently registered some activity over in Bilbao, Spain, and what we found there was a great solo exhibition by the local artist, Juan De La Rica, which is currently on view at Juan Manuel Lumbreras Galerie De Art. Comprising a substantial body of oils on canvas, De Nada is the artist’s fourth solo presentation this year and has been strongly informed by the artist’s switch back to drawings for the most of 2020.

“Last year I did a lot of drawings on paper, with gouache, ink, watercolor, pastels.. it was a long time since I used these techniques so intensively,” the artist stated in the press release for this exhibition, disclosing the background of the varied type of images included in this presentation. The limitations imposed by the health regulations cornered De La Rica to work on a small format, and this approach had him explore a wide variety of genres. “When they ask me what kind of painting I do, I tend to be very generic and say that I do figurative painting, no more,” the artist admits, making sure any subject stays an option for his exploration. And indeed, De Nada includes everything from small scale landscapes to large scale depiction of religious or mythical scenes. All permeated with the great sense of perspective, volume, and light, these highly simplified and stylized visuals balance on the margin between illustration, early 20th century avant garde, with nods to graphic design and even elements of digital illustration.

And it’s fully understandable why De La Rica works with such a wide range of subjects. Technically accomplished, he is interested in exploring how his stylistic interpretation affects the archetypal imagery. Be it Caravaggio’s The Conversion of Saint Paul, Rubens’ Cain slaying Abel, or any given urban or natural landscape, an exploration of a pattern-like compositions, or merely a portrayal of a mundane activity, the Bilbao-based painter is capable of building a work that is aesthetically coherent regardless of its thematic eclecticism. “I like to say that the subject is nothing more than a MacGuffin, to use Hitchcock’s language, a plot excuse for the painting to advance,” the artist explains this idea of redoing, renewing, and developing existing motifs. With such an attitude, De La Rica puts his focus entirely on the painting as a medium, while using the subject as an agency for its exploration and affirmation. Without a thematic common thread in the exhibition, he is capturing the attention by the exquisite execution of his paintings, striking color choices, and superb technical solutions to revision of the familiar and existing imagery. —Sasha Bogojev