Bridging the gap: Spanish artists interpret Pittsburgh

By DAWN DIEHLStaff Writer

Cultural Bridges From the Guadalquivir to the Allegheny

Through Oct. 31…

Cultural Bridges From the Guadalquivir to the Allegheny

Through Oct. 31


4302 Butler St.

(412) 578-9801

When Rocio Nogales-Murial, a graduate student in Pitt’s art history department, first moved to Pittsburgh, she realized that despite the similarities between this city and her native Seville, Spain, there were no contacts between the two cities at the cultural level. Her project, “Puentas Culturales: Cultural Bridges from the Guadalquivir to the Allegheny,” introduces Pittsburgh to the city of Seville. Sponsored by the Spanish State Department of Education, Culture and Sports, the project showcases the works of three contemporary Sevillian painters at the europ’ART gallery.

The paintings by Roberto Alberto Elias, Maria Roldan Benitez and Jose Garcia Blanca represent Sevillian culture and emphasize the similarities between the two cities. Images of rivers, bridges, old buildings and forgotten industry are familiar to Pittsburghers, but the buildings are stucco and the industry is fishing, so these scenes are from another place: Seville.

Elias paints with an illustrative style that includes dramatic detail of shape and judicious application of contrast and planes of color. His pieces, “Two Boats” and “At the Pier,” realistically portray the remnants of Seville’s once-thriving fishing fleet at the edge of the Guadalquivir River, set against a nearly flat gray background that is the sky reflected in the muddy water. He again uses contrast between light and shadow to portray a grinning, toothless old man in “Viejete.” Dark eyes peek out from behind bright, silver rimmed eyeglasses. Warm flesh tones are interrupted with deep shadow, revealing the man’s age.

Using brush and knife to apply her oils, Benitez paints works of texture in both subject and technique. In fact, the method of application seems to echo and to amplify the subject. The flat rough stucco-walled buildings in “Puenta Genil” and “Broad Street Ecija” are painted with flat and heavy strokes. Soft, almost impressionistic strokes create the appearance of woven wicker and reeds in “Baskets.” Although most of her work is colored in natural, predominately muted tones, two striking still-lifes, “Bouquet 1” and “Bouquet 2” are filled with vibrant color. “Bouquet 2” is especially interesting and lovely because Benitez has painted its three brilliant fuchsia flowers standing in a clear glass vase filled with water.

Self-taught artist Blanca’s monochromatic paintings may seem uninteresting at first: They are just stylized portraits of women and still-lifes that feature bottles and glassware. But looking deeper at the painting reveals the artist’s passion for creating beautiful women, and the humor he finds in giving wine bottles some extra personality. Blanca’s style carefully blends shades of rich, dark color to create soft, meditative compositions that are highlighted with glowing points of white that show contour and smooth texture. One of the “Botella” pieces is a whimsical manipulation of European advertising, a still-life that has come to life – two bottles of “Tio Pepe” sherry, dressed in torero hats and jackets, wave to one another across a deep brown field of color.