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Patrick Medrano: The Great Decline
Redbud Gallery, Houston, Texas
Review by Donna Tennant

Patrick Medrano, “The Great Decline,” plaster, wood, metal, gut of antique upright piano taken from a WPA built segregated school, 35 x 60”


Continuing through April 27, 2021


Patrick Medrano produced his current works during the COVID-19 pandemic, commenting that they are “simply what it took for me and my family to stay mentally, physically, and soulfully alive.” His embellished paintings and painted constructions, puppet-like figures and assemblages express a range of emotions familiar to most virus survivors: humorous, melancholy, poignant. There is humor in “Not Enough Gumballs,” a wall construction that houses hundreds of colorful gumballs. Cynicism permeates “Cash for Disney,” a painting on a wine box of a figure wearing Mickey Mouse ears. It’s an ambitious show, inspired and informed by politics (Ted Cruz makes an appearance of sorts), nature, death and religion.

Medrano’s ongoing fascination with artifacts is perhaps best illustrated by “Pandemic Bunnies,” a sculpture constructed from a 1930s harp shipping case, and “The Great Decline,” which uses the guts of an antique upright piano from a WPA era segregated school. Both pieces contain the artist’s signature plaster figures with their distinctive bunny ears. The rabbit is a recurring theme in his work, appearing in eight of the pieces, or humans with rabbit ears. Traditionally, rabbits are symbols of fertility, good fortune and luck. But here they function as something else; their large ears are like antennae, listening intently and on the lookout for danger. 


Many of the paintings and plaster pieces feature nude or partially nude torsos, often with found objects for legs, like a weed whacker in “Sharp as a Blade,” or a ladder in “The Social Climber.” Several sculptures contain moving elements — a wooden giraffe and the figures in “Pandemic Bunnies” can be manipulated with red yarn. The figures are often given melancholy expressions, and some, such as “Firefly” and “Tears of a Hero,” have painted blue tears. 


The use of gas masks best reflects the title of the show, “The Great Decline.” It is unclear if Medrano is referring to the pandemic, the economy, the country’s political polarization, climate change; in fact, it’s all of the above, but with a pensive feeling that emanates from the show as a whole. Two resplendent angels, however, serve as a respite. Their elaborate feathered wings dominate the pair of canvases to inject a note of renewal. The show aptly conveys the tenor of the times, which are at best uncertain, but containing the seeds of a different future.

Redbud Gallery

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