Rare Gallery is pleased to present Giants and Gentility, Nebraska artist Santiago Cal’s solo debut in New York. His series of painted wood sculptures begun in 2013, titled “40 Rings,” explores the intertwining of global events with personal memories and family stories during his first 40 years, from 1973 to 2013. Cal’s decision to filter worldwide occurrences meaningful to him through the prism of family life and history allows him to interpret these events without literally illustrating them, thereby imparting an allegorical cast to each work.
After Franco references the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, as well as that of Cal’s favorite poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, who was killed in 1936, the year Franco began his rise to power. The poet’s body was burned and buried in an unknown grave, while his writings were banned under the dictator’s regime. The Good Life, also the slogan of the state of Nebraska, where the artist has made his home since 2000, symbolizes the roots he was able to lay down and the new pathway through life he established as a result of meeting his future wife. Cicada celebrates the birth of his son, Jude Jeronimo, in 2014, while Things to Come, in the form of a hissing snake, represents the wanton destruction by the Taliban in 2001 of the monumental 6th century sculptures known as the Bamiyan Buddhas.
Each work that Cal includes in the “40 Rings” series ultimately addresses his growth as an individual, artist, father, and husband, as he tries to make sense of the trajectory of history and how it has impacted him and his family and their place in the world. The concept of growth finds its metaphorical foundation in the rings of a tree, and bears fruit in Cal’s passion for wood, which began with the stories his Mayan grandfather passed on to him about the Cieba tree and its spiritual qualities.
Cal received an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1998. He has had one-person exhibitions in Belize, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and New Zealand; has participated in many groups shows worldwide; and has been awarded several important research grants, fellowships, and artist residencies.