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Marcio Diaz Seattle Times exhibition review

Exhibit BannerTiny Bubbles: The Effervescent Pastorals of Marcio Diaz

The Nicaraguan-American artist Marcio Díaz creates lush colors and Rocky Mountain vistas with thousands of tiny bubbles in a one-man art movement he calls “Bubblism.”

By Michael Upchurch
Special to The Seattle Times

Was there ever an artistic movement more delightfully named than “Bubblism”?

It is, so far, only a one-man movement, with Nicaraguan-American artist Marcio Díaz as its sole proponent. There is also a spoof religion called Bubblism that announced its founding on Facebook in 2010, but has only posted a handful of updates since then. Otherwise, Díaz has the field to himself.

So what does Díaz mean by the term?

It’s a color-infused, acrylic-on-canvas technique in which the figurative and the abstract teeter in a precarious balance. His method, described in his artist’s statement, combines conventional brush strokes, drip painting, canvas drying and smearing and neutral glazing to create “a perceptual net linking one spot of color to another” before he finishes each painting off with “dozens of smaller circles of color that reinforce and harmonize the whole composition.”

vibrant spherical daubs of paint. They are clearly descendants of 19th-century pointillism, and they have a distant cousin in Chuck Close’s work as well. But the subject matter Díaz explores is predominantly pastoral.

While his earlier work sprang mainly from the lush floral colors of his native Nicaragua, the pieces in his new show at ArtXchange Gallery evoke the landscapes of the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest, where he also spends part of each year.

His work is a natural fit for ArtXchange, founded by Hong Kong-born, Seattle-based photographer Cora Edmonds 20 years ago to serve as “a contemporary intercultural art gallery that inspires cultural exploration, the expansion of global community and the exchange of ideas through art.”

Some of Díaz’s recent pieces — “April’s Allegories,” “Spirit of Fall II,” “Dust in the Wind” — are pure suffusions of color with no figurative elements at all. Their hues range from springlike in “April’s Allegories” to autumn carmines, russets and reds in “Spirit of Fall II.” In “Dust in the Wind,” bright nebulae of yellows, reds and shades in between diffuse themselves over a void composed of darker blues, grays, violets and even blacks.

Díaz hits his sweetest spot, however, when he introduces a subliminal figurative element into the picture. “April Flowers” does little more than hint at the presence of two women — dressed in white, with their long dark hair tied back — about to blend into the floral buzz that surrounds them.

“The Encounter” does something similar with its brightly clad female and shadowy male. This could be a prearranged tryst — or it could be a more ominous, ghostly visitation.

In paintings where an obvious figure emerges — “Golden Evening,” “Beautiful Trail” and others — Díaz appeals prettily to the eye but can verge on sentimental (he’s a bit too fond of rustic barns).

But his pure landscapes, whether they’re evoking Pacific Northwest scenes or Rocky Mountain vistas, can be sublime. They’re beguiling, too, in the way the sheer variety of color in their thousands of “bubbles” coalesce into palettes that can evoke gray-lit Cascades greenery (“Northwest Memories,” “Green Mountains”) as easily as verdant creek-beds winding through the tawny topography of the semiarid West (“Green in the Rocky Mountains”).

The one local season Díaz doesn’t appear to tackle is our November-to-February marathon of drizzle, rain and eiderdown-heavy skies — which makes his work a perfect antidote to midwinter darkness … and even, for Seattle purposes, a breath of holiday cheer.

Michael Upchurch: www.michaelupchurchauthor.com

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