003: Ruznic, Maciá
Please see the pronunciation notes at the end of this issue.
Welcome to Issue 003 of Several Artists! Yes, we finally rebooted! Sorry for the delays, writer’s block is “a thing,” &c.
For this issue – dateline Bangkok, 22 October 2023 – I bring you two artists who are, and are not, New Mexicans: Maja Ruznic and Oswaldo Maciá.
Their styles couldn’t be further apart, but their art shares something more than a connection to the Land of Enchantment: both artists address the universal human experience, and the migratory imagination essential to its long historic core.
Both have what the Germans call Migrationshintergrund – a “migratory background,” a life lived across borders – as does your humble author. This is a thing that has always expressed itself in the art of those thus backgrounded, from diasporas to internal exile – like it or not, it’s there.
Another thing that connects Ruznic and Maciá is a touch of the shamanistic, which I believe will be self-evident in the pictures below. They both come from places with an outsized share of ghosts.
Maja Ruznic: The Split/The Beginning, 2023, oil on linen, 254x193 cm
Maja Ruznic was born in what is now Bosnia and Hercegovina – a gorgeous corner of the world steeped, alas, in bloody conflict. (I highly recommend Ivo Andric to the curious. And of course going there, it’s completely safe now.)
She moved to the United States in the 1990’s as a result of the most recent Bosnian War, and the trauma of that war and the refugee experience feature prominently in her work.
I’ve been following her on social media for some time, but only recently had a chance to see the work in real life, at Karma Gallery in Los Angeles. It was rewarding, to put it mildly: these big paintings sing, or perhaps hum, from beneath the subdued hues of their paint.
Maja Ruznic: The Force Field, 2023, oil on linen, 178x127 cm
Maja Ruznic: Geometry of Exile, 2023, oil on linen, 239x193 cm
One of the best things about Ruznic’s new work is how much of it is figurative while really not being figurative at all, and yet so very figurative. You can’t help but bounce back and forth between seeing real characters, and seeing abstract shapes hinting at characters.
This abstraction of the figure – a bit more extreme than you find in typical abstract figurative work – calls to mind the fragmented walls of ancient Babylon.
Holographic Anxiety Propeller, 2023, oil on linen, 228x178 cm
And then there’s the straight-up crazy imagery: the Insect Gods and the denizens of Holographic Earth. I do hope we see a lot more of this in the years to come. Note to self: win lottery, buy propeller bug painting!
March of Holographic Children, 2023, oil on linen, 254x193 cm
One of the things Ruznic is known for is the watercolorishness of her large-format oil paintings. To coin a phrase, oof: it sounds so much better to call it Aquarelligkeit, thank you Mr Goethe. The one above captures this pretty well, and it’s one of those rare things that surprise you by having quite the same effect live, at two and a half meters high, as in a picture on a glowing screen.
The final, most important thing I want to say about Maja Ruznic today is that she’s painting outside of place and time. In a good way. I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe, and this isn’t quite that; and it’s certainly not New Mexico, though in some way it has to be (she lives there). If it’s California, it’s only because she could have a very bright future in Los Angeles. I think this work is a sort of new international semi-abstract, and I will be on the lookout for others mining the same vein.
Oswaldo Maciá: Vulture (from Cruces)
Oswaldo Maciá comes from Cartagena de Indias in Colombia, and has been an internationalist by choice for much of his life. I had the good fortune to discover his work in the form of an audio-and-painting installation at the Vladem Contemporary in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the artist lives some of the time.
It would be unfair to show only his paintings, since he is primarily an installation artist and the paintings are merely one part of the work. But they’re really good paintings, so I give myself license.
Maciá deals with the migratory in both the literal, animalistic sense, and also in the sense of our human migrations across lines on the map (whose map?) and between states of being. Do we even know our migrations? Is there even such a thing as a background?
Oswaldo Maciá: Bird (from Cruces)
Oswaldo Maciá: Bat (from Cruces)
The works above are modest in size. No exact dimensions were given in the installation, but I estimate they’re somewhere close to 30x40cm. The Ruznic paintings are gigantic by comparison, but fear not: Maciá has some massive work as well, and not just the four-dimensional auditory sort.
Oswaldo Maciá: Root (from Cruces)
Here we go! This is wall-sized, and very much of the people in that it has no fancy stretcher behind it. Just canvas tacked to the wall. Getting at the root of things.
Oswaldo Maciá: Darién Gap (from Cruces)
And now we get to the, er, crux of the Cruces installation: the migrations visualized, or as they like to say in the Art World: the global positions. Unfortunately I could not bring a recording of the sound portion of this installation. There was simply too much background noise from the railyard on the day I visited. But I do take seriously the audio (and in some cases olfactory) parts of Maciás’s work, and I hope to encounter another installation so I can dig deeper into the nonvisual aspects.
And the Darién Gap looks like an interesting place, and as far as I can see a tragic one. A reason to migrate, if you can’t stay, but plenty of reasons to stay if you can.
- Maja Ruznic Web Site
- Maja Ruznic Instagram
- Maja Ruznic: Geometry of Exile at Karma LA
- Maja Ruznic and Joshua Hagler: Juxtapose Presents video
- Maja Ruznic Hopper Prize Interview
- Maja Ruznic Future Tongue Interview
- Oswaldo Maciá Web Site
- Oswaldo Maciá Wikipedia
- Oswaldo Maciá Instagram
- Oswaldo Maciá at Vladem Contemporary Santa Fe
- Oswaldo Maciá Short Interview in Santa Fe New Mexican
- Oswaldo Maciá at Site Santa Fe in 2021
Text (c) Copyright 2023 Kevin Frost, all rights reserved.
Photographs as photographs (c) Copyright 2023 Kevin Frost, all rights reserved.
Artwork itself (c) Copyright the respective artists, all rights reserved.
I make art, and I also collect art. If I own art by any of the artists featured in the Several Artists newsletter at the time of writing, I will call that out. This may not be done retroactively; and you should keep in mind that I want to own art by every single artist I write about, and you should want to own their art too.
- Ruznic uses the Americanized pronunciation of her last name: RUHZ-nick, and Maja is pronounced MAI-ya.
- Maciá should (I think) be mah-see-AH and Oswaldo is Ahs-WALD-oh but my Spanish is débil.
Sorry if the phoenetic spelling is unclear. There’s a lot of ambiguity to deal with if you take into account non-native readers. Corrections from the artists are welcome.