blue ink runs in her veins exhibition august 2015, Archway Gallery Houston, TX
Cecilia Villanueva says, "The ink of my father's blueprints got into my veins and my palette. Architecture is my life—I draw, I build, and I paint."
Indeed. Blue ink doesn't just run in Villanueva's veins—it runs in her family. As the child of the accomplished and prolific Mexican architect Luis Villanueva, daughter Cecilia was immersed in the language and drawings of buildings and their structure. The world of architecture and in particular the blue ink of blueprints made an indelible impression on her.
Cecilia Villaneuva's solo show is about architecture, but more specifically her inspiration comes from the structure and quirks of ancient cities. These were cities built entirely based on the criteria of form-follows-function. Jericho was constructed of circular dwellings accommodating its dead interred within the floors, Catal Höyük's buildings were constructed with access through the roof, and Lepenski Vir comprised of stunningly advanced geometrically organized structures. Fascinated by the cities' properties, she performs a kind of architectural-archaeological investigation and exploration; and eschewing her usual methods and modernity, she has turned her attention to unearthing and interpreting the secrets and souls of these ancient cities, representing them in her own style.
As for genre, one is tempted to slot Villanueva into the cubists' catalogue, alongside such female cubist notables as Franciscka Clausen or more pointedly Marie Vorobieff, whose sunny palette conflicted with the perennially dreary and male-dominated movement. However, with Cecilia Villanueva, the designation as a cubist might well be premature sinceeci most cubists begin with an organic shape and break down their subject into geometrics, but the discipline of the architectonic that Villanueva paints is already comprised of cubes. Does this make her a defacto cubist or is she in fact moving away from rigid structure? Until now, Villanueva's paintings have been clean and cool, almost clinical, mostly European streetscapes—streetscapes in that blue that runs in her veins and unpopulated by any hot and uncontrolled natural or organic element. This solo show reveals a brave departure as she digs into the personalities and the feel of the urban landscapes. These paintings are tactile, rendered in oils and mixed media composed of unexpected materials: stucco, oil mediums, and various fibrous materials. They are painted with a wider palette, and interweave organics such as trees and foliage. In addition, she has added shapes to the perimeter of the canvas, as if breaking down walls, pushing the envelope… literally thinking outside the box.