Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Versatile artist, who studied at Ringling College of Art and Design, moves effortlessly between local-color city scenes and classical, elegant depictions. Most recently, his work was featured in the show for the Society of Illustrators at Gallery Nucleus in Los Angeles.
“Time is important to the artist.” Thus reads Dominguez’s website; he’s quoting himself. Judging by his works, the artist must use his time wisely because he’s achieved something brilliant.
Many of Dominguez’s editorial works involve people in urban settings. The street scene is his dominant subject matter. In these scenes, his ability to capture the city in a single, telling moment takes us beyond the usual territory of the illustration and into something wider, like a painting. The city characters are at times done in meticulous detail, in which we gather their personalities and situations; at times in a sort of caricature that gives exaggeration to the scene; or crowd depictions where colors and patterns come out more than faces.
Norman Rockwell’s influence on Dominguez’s illustrations is by no means veiled, and Dominguez himself credits Rockwell as being his greatest inspiration. Departing from his Miami-influenced urban subject matter, Dominguez illustrates 50’s era children in overalls and flap-hats, and in one picture, a nun brings out a basket of oranges into a schoolyard. Adults are often missing from the picture or placed just outside of it--we see the bottom half of their bodies or merely their hands. In “Hunger”, a bunch of scalawag kids rush up to a plate of cookies held out by a mother. Each one of these works of narrative art conjures up a story, with a dynamic moment of action and intensity.
But my favorite Dominguez illustration evokes neither the urban “local-color” nor the Rockwell type portraits, but a very classical and exotic art. “Walking a Monk” is the perfect example of this original style I’m referring to (done with acrylic and graphite on illustration board).
I love the layout of the picture. It begins with the subtle background, the wide stone staircase, the tilted umbrella over the shoulder of the sauntering monk, and then the massive body of the spangled tiger. Using this layout, our eyes naturally follow the stairs down, we glimpse briefly at the face of the monk--and everything converges in the marvelous beast.
The movement is precise. The tiger’s midriff turns inward as its hind legs and lavish tail swing in the opposite direction. Notice the perfect placement of the tiger’s front leg extending forward. In fact, a fine balance of opposing angles hold the illustration together. The monk and the tiger look in opposite directions. The monk looks up into the top left-hand corner of the picture while the tiger looks down to the bottom right.
Dominguez’s work has such marvelous coloring and impeccable detail that the sheer absurdity of the picture can easily go unseen. This is a monk walking a tiger on a leash. How improbable! How absurd! And yet in this improbable and exotic scene there is a thematic and metaphorical unity. The saffron robe of the Buddhist and the tiger’s coat, in a way, mirror each other. The billowing of the monk's robe makes the distinction between the two figures almost untraceable. They seem one, in this provocative, energetic moment.
OLIVER DOMINGUEZ'S WORK
This is the third in a series of illustration art reviews for the Arts and Culture Webzine, Escape into Life. If you are interested in writing reviews on illustration art, please contact me. More reviews can be found at Escape into Life.