Virgil Ortiz | EVOLution: Emilio Lobato & Virgil Ortiz


EVOLution: Emilio Lobato & Virgil Ortiz

By Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Ph.D.
Santa Fe, New Mexico


Evolution, from the Latin evolutio, was first defined as ‘the unrolling of a scroll’ and came to signify ‘the revelation that comes with unfolding something.’ In time, it would come to refer to maneuvers and movements of various kinds, twisting and turning. Modern use of the word conveys gradual change from a simpler to a more complex state. Yet, even Charles Darwin, whose name became synonymous with the word, resisted its use to define his groundbreaking theory on the transformation of species until the very last verb of On the Origin of Species, when he wrote: From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Reconstructing the first four letters of the word evolution with their own initials, the two artists reveal how their particular collaboration redefines the parameters of a renewed opening and movement to evolve.  Although they can trace their individual lineage from complex societies, these two men were born and raised in small villages. While nearly 200 miles apart, they share a connection to the same ancient and sovereign landscape, as well as to its people’s profound cultural legacy. Virgil comes from a long line of potters from Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico and Emilio from generations of farmers and weavers that connect him, not only to his natal San Pablo, Colorado, but the places that his ancestors settled along the way. Their experiences and stories, though seemingly different, are intricately coiled and interwoven together, fired and fortified across generations and cultures.

The promise of the exhibition is thus, the gradual revelation of something new, a conversation that the artists have forged independently and with each other. These two artists – whose “endless forms most beautiful” comprise this exhibition – bring together pieces formed, not only from the material world, ceramic, book covers, paper, rulers, but unique aesthetics that comes not only from their past, but from their creative projections into the future. Their work, its composition, movement and color, invites us to look more closely, beyond what we may initially perceive. Complex patterns, symbols, juxtapositions and the sacred, perhaps when taken as a whole, emerge as a map that when unfolded and revealed together point to the next world.

left: Emilio Lobato and Virgil Ortiz, Squash, collage and oil on ceramic, 25″ x 9″ x 8″
right: Emilio Lobato and Virgil Ortiz, Hummingbird, collage and oil on ceramic, 22 ½” x 20″ x 12″