Ren Ebel and Raúl Domínguez

Ren Ebel and Raúl Domínguez

In Raúl Domínguez’s “Media hora de sol” (Half an Hour of Sunshine), dozens of untitled drawings (all works 2022) covered one wall of a large hallway, scattered like dandelion seeds caught in an updraft. Most of these appeared on standard white A4 paper, taped to the wall, or else slipped into slightly crinkled plastic binder sleeves that were hung from pins. Beneath them, scrawled directly onto the wall, mural-size graphite enlargements of other drawings similarly depicted doodle-like scenes from the artist’s beguiling, polyamorous Eden. The drawings were not presented in a linear fashion, yet the specificity of their settings and characters at times hinted, like the disorganized cells of a storyboard, at narrative. But any graspable plot quickly unraveled into a flurry of idyllic sketches that more often recalled the hurriedly recorded fragments of an odd and pleasant dream.

Most of the pictures portrayed groups of happy, horny humanoids gallivanting in nature, embracing, fucking, or otherwise communing, often by way of inscrutable leisurely rituals. The situations depicted, while inventively perverse, were also tender and innocent: languid orgies on the banks of peaceful rivers, fellatio presided over by smiling farm animals, sun-dappled bodies draped lazily upon one another in postcoital reverie. Some scenes were slightly more opaque: A freckled person in a Mickey Mouse crop top and pixie haircut crouched in a glade of tall grass, gazing wistfully beyond the edge of the page. A tiny baby, half shrouded in the weeds, clutched the former’s stiletto boot. Many of Domínguez’s characters are androgynous, vaguely anime in style, with voluptuous curves and elastic limbs. Their edges are often shaded with yellow colored pencil, imbuing the figures with a warm glow. The works themselves were crude, sketched mostly in pencil and colored ballpoint pen amid half-erased scribbles and errant lines of text that read like the stray musings of some omniscient observer.

Although the scenes were all set outdoors, the city wasn’t far off. Distant glimpses of highway overpasses and shopping malls suggested that Domínguez’s hedonistic characters occupy the small patches of green space at the fringes of urbanization: the park, the duck pond, the river that cuts through the city. Several of the works seemed to be set in a hedge maze reminiscent of that in The Shining (1980). Wherever they are, Domínguez’s characters are rarely alone, and when they aren’t busy pleasing themselves or one another, they are engaged in some form of cooperative action. In one drawing, three figures participated in what could have been a collaborative yoga session. In another, two people helped a third reach for the high branches of a tree. Perhaps they were driven by a desire that extends beyond the pleasures of the flesh, towards something utopian.

Several larger works on paper in darker-hued charcoal, conté, and graphite hung in a small enclosed exhibition space at the end of the corridor. Forgoing loose cartoonish chaos for a more deliberate abstraction, these drawings evoke dense and eerie forest nocturnes. Their monochromatic compositions comprised shadowy impressions of the likes of leaves, stems, and flowers, which Domínguez placed directly on the paper and worked over in thin layers until these natural fragments became opaque. Paired with the hallway doodles, these works constitute a dramatic shift in scale and style that deepens Domínguez’s pictorial world. It was as if one had glimpsed the artist’s idiosyncratic fantasy from afar, only to be suddenly enveloped in it, peering out through darkening foliage as night fell. Domínguez helms these contrasting registers with an acuity that allows him to acknowledge both utopia’s starry-eyed daydream and reality’s dusky chill.

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