Consu Tolosa’s abstract paintings exude joy. The 30-some canvases, on display at Guardino Gallery (alongside works by Helen Kaufman, Hazel Glass, and Rosey Covert), share a jellybean palette, with a blushing pink their common star. Tolosa’s organically shaped orbs and repeating dots recall mid-century modern design, but Pleasures + Perils cannot be mistaken for decoration. The layers are intricate, and the patterns dynamically arranged. The complexity is significant. Time spent with each of these small-to-moderately-sized pieces consistently reveals new elements.
Before 2017, much of Tolosa’s works were illustrative, whimsical paintings of characters. Her Crossroads and Pivots exhibition at Powell’s City of Books last July marked a noticeable break into abstraction. Tolosa’s January show at the Multnomah Arts Center, Playful Spirits ~ Vibrant Visions reinforced this new direction. An art therapist by profession, Tolosa gravitated toward non-pictorial painting as a way to explore what she describes as moments of human connection. In her Pleasures + Perils artist statement she writes, “Feelings and relationships show up as a range of hues and a variety of brushstrokes.”
Indeed, color combined with mark-making drives her work. Tolosa’s new, abstract works remind me of a series of postcards Jean-Michel Basquiat sent to his girlfriend in his early career. Instead of writing a message, Basquiat brushed a stroke, smudge, or blob of paint. He trusted the color combined with the quality of his mark to convey his sentiment. Hopefully Tolosa will gain a similar trust. In her current exhibition, the paintings’ titles, such as “Pregnant with Possibilities,” are the one thing that detract from the experience.
Given Tolosa’s profession as an art therapist and her inspiration drawn from moments of human connection, one can understand her desire to define the paintings’ origins. But these origins do not need to appear in the destination. She may have gone through perils to get there, but the results are pure pleasure.