OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, Rob Pellicer has established himself as one of our city's most promising surrealist painters. However, it wasn't until his current show at Breeze Block that Pellicer formulated a visual vocabulary all his own. Citing poet Amiri Baraka's ability to "resurrect the past while being contemporary," Pellicer draws compositional inspiration from old masters like Caravaggio—modernizing classic imagery with a range of cultural references and design motifs.

"Sandcastles #1" is exemplary of Pellicer's progress. Central to the painting is a partial representation of a human face, crowned in an ethnic headdress. The top of the headdress wraps into smears of flowers and cherubim, where an angel tumbles through the vacuum of space. Pellicer says the piece works as a sort of Rorschach test for cultural perception: Many assess the face as male and African, though the reference image was female and Middle Eastern, and there's nothing on the canvas to suggest otherwise.

While exposing perceptual biases isn't incredibly uncommon, Pellicer's religious references add weight. In "Saint Jude Nebulae," the patron of hopeless causes stands on a luminous cloud; shards of angels swirl about. The significance? "As we begin to outgrow the world, we look outwards and it seems hopeless," says Pellicer. He adds that Mexicans crossing the border often carry images of St. Jude, and that the painting suggests the hopelessness of the refugee. Whatever the significance, it's great to see such visual innovation at work.