A couple of years ago, Santi Moix, the Barcelona-born Swiss painter, stopped by New York’s Strand bookstore to pick up a book to bring back to his daughter in Barcelona. He found a $5 copy of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and after he bought it, he found a $100 bill inside. For Moix, who’d spent years working on a series of paintings inspired by Cervates’ Don Quixote, it was a like a neon arrow pointing in a the direction of his new muse. “The bill was clean…stiff,” he said, adding that he instantly knew, ”that was the message.”
Last week, , the fruits of what followed—an artist’s intense study and personal rendering of the classic American hero-tale told through a vibrant palette and watery brush strokes—went on display in a series of paintings and collages entitled, “Santi Moix on Huckleberry Finn,” at Paul Kasmin Gallery. The paintings are crammed together on the walls against a backdrop of free-flowing sketches in thick black. In corners of the two-room show, the mix of watercolors and sketches make a complex feast for the eyes.
“I spent a week alone in the gallery,” the stout Spaniard told me, “It was a special week, of recreating the drawings from my original sketchbook in charcoal on the gallery walls.” Though Moix said his telling of the classic allegory “is not different,” even a casual glance at the work presents a challenge to that statement. The colorful, almost frenetic canvases were punctuated with curious, darting sets of wild eyes and hauntingly gruesome images (in one, a stack of severed heads resembled a horror-show totem pole; in another, a saw gripped by a slime-green monster-ish hand hung above a sky-blue body silently screeching an impending doom). If the interpretation was unique, the journey of the river winding along from confused boyhood to unwavering adulthood remained in tact.
“I never own what I do and that has made me feel free,” Moix said as a final thought.
“Santi Moix on Huckleberry Finn” is on view until February 11 at 293 Tenth Avenue.