Anna Calleja, Jorge K. Cruz, Onur Gökmen, Igor Moritz, Grace Rosario Perkins, Elsa Rensaa
October 21—November 22, 2023

Reception: Thursday, November 2, 6-8pm

Breakthrough introduces six artists: Anna Calleja, Jorge K. Cruz, Onur Gökmen, Igor Moritz, Grace Rosario Perkins, and Elsa Rensaa. This group exhibition formalizes a creative process that is influenced by the transformative mindset of each artist and materializes the unconscious as art. The work of these artists tends to look inward, offering a glimpse of personal, everyday moments, domestic and studio scenes, as well as the interiors of emotional and spiritual life. These images and objects are both recognizable and strange, wrought by creative forces made visible through form and content. Herein, the unconscious serves as a kind of invisible layer, producing a binding substance between image and expression within each artwork.

There is an openness of process that carries throughout this group of works that can be read as both a sensuality and sensibility. For each artist, the studio offers a place to foster freedom, experimentation, contemplation, and action—all of which continually transform and steadily materialize in the process of the making of the work. If all that exists in our world consists of either energy or matter, as viewers we connect with these objects in a (hyper-)sensual moment, in which what we see and feel is a presence of the unconscious as it arrives into the artwork, without itself taking on explicit forms. This encounter with the resulting work thus marks the moment of its full manifestation.

Here, in its extrinsic substance—color, line, icon, image, reference, signifier, abstraction, and so on—each work now points to the existence of itself and what lies beyond. Forming this new relation independent of its maker, the creative force culminates in an organism of permanent autonomy with which we come to meet. The breakthrough, therefore, occurs not only as the work crystallizes but also in its reception, detaching from the privacy of its making and made public through its exhibition. Established in its neutrality yet always in relation, the work connects and revolves through past and future timelines, between first- and third-person narration, from one emotional body to another, in a space of confidence and belief.

James Fuentes would like to thank the artists for the creative dialogues that led to the exhibition in close conversation with collaborators Todd Bockley, Christopher Y. Lew, Lundgren Gallery, Daniel Malarkey, Clayton Patterson, and Gryphon Rue.

Organized by Katrin Lewinsky.

With the generous support of White Castle.

Anna Calleja (b.1997) is a Maltese artist. For Calleja, the process of art making provides a means for active introspection, particularly in the face of our anxious present and uncertain future. Her work questions the creative potential of human vulnerability and her interest lies in dualities—the tension and dissonance between comfort and melancholy, isolation and connection, love and grief. The images begin from her personal archive; both real and constructed, cataloguing places held as home for a moment. Calleja graduated Fine Art at Falmouth University in 2020 and has since exhibited internationally. In 2022, she was awarded the Premju Ghal-Arti for Best Young Artist by Arts Council Malta.

Jorge K. Cruz (b.1995) was born and grew up in the coastal city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, before emigrating to New York City at the age of 17. This year he relocated to Margate, UK for the Tracey Emin Artist Residency, where he is currently based. Self-taught as an artist, Cruz made an early decision to dedicate his path to painting, which he approaches as an intuitive and experimental action. The artist’s work is inflected with this sense of flux between the worlds of past and present; between a saturated familiarity and the starkness of the present moment; channeled into the romantic, nostalgic, expressive, and even conflicting capacities of painting as a medium. As his swirling imagery contorts into abstraction, Cruz demonstrates a visceral use of the medium to reflect upon those truths that wind beneath everyday life. In his own words: “I have found that simplicity can be a helpful partner when dealing with complicated subjects.”

Onur Gökmen (b.1985, Ankara, Turkey) currently resides between Berlin and Istanbul. His work across sculpture, photography, video, installation, and performance addresses reality as something perpetually informed by the entwinement of past and future. Taking up reduced forms, his works reference architectures uncovered by archaeological excavation, the skeletal structures of the living body, as well as the vocabulary of Minimalism—calling into question the very foundations that inform our sense of historical hierarchy. He has presented works and performances at venues including MMK, Frankfurt am Main; Reina Sofia, Madrid; Asia Culture Center, Gwangju; Sharjah Biennial 13; and Delfina Foundation, London, where he also undertook an artist residency in 2015. He was awarded the 2011 Akbank/RHMD Contemporary Artists Prize in Istanbul.

Igor Moritz (b.1996, Poland) is mostly self-taught as an artist, having attended an arts high school and developed his artistic practice beyond that point on his own terms. Moritz’s works in oil paint and colored pencil are saturated with an electric color palette that recalls the intensity of Fauvism while depicting figures that seem at once forlorn and distant. These works depict people from the artist’s most intimate circles; their presence transferred through the physicality of light into the realm of painting, where time effectively stands still. These compositions make reference to a broad vocabulary from Pierro della Francesca to polish folk Sculpture—flirting with mimesis while breaking all rules of perspective, proportion, and realism. Moritz has been exhibited in London, Paris, New York, Copenhagen, Mexico City, Mallorca, and his work is represented in collections including Colección SOLO in Madrid, Museum No Hero in Delden, and Rad Hourani Foundation in Montreal.

Grace Rosario Perkins (b. 1986, Santa Fe, NM; Diné/Akimel O’odham) lives in Albuquerque but spent most of her life moving between city centers, the Navajo Nation, and the Gila River Indian Community. Self-taught as a painter, Perkins’ distinct approach to maximal painting is imbued with cultural and autobiographical metaphor. While autobiography lives within her work, she uses abstraction, collage, and improvisation to scramble that “information.” Motifs like the spiderweb appear in many of her works and are emblematic of her intent in creating artwork, which is to create structures that are adaptive, expansive, and connective while still resisting legibility. Perkins has spent over 15 years as an arts educator, including serving as Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing at Mills College in Oakland, CA. Her solo exhibition, A Mirror, A Window, A Songbird is on view at de boer gallery in Los Angeles, and earlier this year her work was the subject of a solo exhibition at MOCA Tucson. Other sites of engagement include ONE Archives, Oakland Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Cooper Union, and Occidental College. Perkins has been nominated for a United States Arts Fellowship as well as SFMOCA’s SECA Award.

Elsa Rensaa was born in Norway and raised in Edmonton, Canada, later relocating to lower Manhattan in 1979. Because of her reclusive nature, the depth and brilliance of her work is only today starting to surface and become understood. Rensaa’s known oeuvre consists of a small body of icon paintings spanning the 1970s through ‘90s. The painter's images are rendered through a meticulous application of thin acrylic washes that bring forth precise, syncretic, reverent, lush visual portals. These works draw from a vast and visionary range, from Ancient Nordic, Egyptian, and Eastern imagery, to Renaissance, Art Nouveau, and Dada frames of reference, to Lower East Side iconography—now distinctly recognizable as Rensaa’s own.