In ‘Photo-synthesis’ artist imitates artist

It is often said that life imitates art and vice versa. In Cory Bilicko and Tony Barrera’s new exhibition Photo-synthesis, it’s the artist who imitates the artist.

Bilicko and Barrera are very different from each other, but you can’t tell when walking through their gallery. Energetic and gregarious, Birico has curated and participated in more than a dozen exhibitions, museums and galleries in her 13 years of painting and collage work.

A quiet and thoughtful Long Beach native, Barrera has expressed his thoughts on love, depression and life through photography since he was a child. He describes his work as “moody and emotional”, and his first exhibition showcases photographs and newly created images from his lifetime of shooting.

“I was so inspired by his photographs and loved his photographs so much that I wanted to reinterpret them,” said Birico. “I wanted to use them as muses and pieces of inspiration, and that’s where the idea came from. And I thought if I reinterpreted him, he should reinterpret mine.” rice field.”

The walls of the Ephemeral Gallery are intricately arranged with 26 works of art, all playing with each other. Bilicko and Barrera began their creative process just before the pandemic and spent about three years creating and recreating the show’s work.

Tony Barrera (right) and Cory Bilicko (left) interpreting other works in preferred mediums for the series “Photo-Synthesis” at the Ephemeral Gallery in downtown Long Beach on December 6, 2022 I am sitting near the work that inspired me to do this. (Richard H. Grant | Signal Tribune)

It was Birico who approached Varela with the idea of ​​working together. He had previously experimented with the imitation idea at an exhibition at Greenlee Art Space on Signal Hill. In this exhibition, 30 artists and children recreated vintage postcards, and the concept of where artists draw their inspiration kept him interested.

Birico searched for the perfect artist to explore this idea, and after a year of searching, found Barrera’s work and immediately pitched the show.

“I was really excited right away,” said Barrera. “I always wanted to collaborate with an artist, but I didn’t know how he came up with the idea.

The two artists spent the next two years meeting, sharing each other’s work, spending time alone with their work, and reinterpreting them in their preferred mediums. Her Barrera photo of a woman standing in front of the now-closed Long Beach bookstore, Acres of Books, is transformed by Bilicko into a poster in her style of punk rock with strokes of bright pink and black paint. .

Biricco’s quadtique, Conformity, is a four-quadrant painting in which each square is interspersed with wildly different colors and patterns, and Barrera has taken to photographing each quadrant. A line of bright blue paint becomes a rain cloud hovering over Barrera’s subject. A splatter of yellow paint becomes the star in Barrera’s living room.

“Cory explained to me what was going on in my head when I was painting. “There were a few times when I tried to do my own thing and try to be aware of what he was doing,” said Barrera. [Bilicko’s] Emotions were in the middle of it and I tried to flip it over a bit.

Barrera chose five paintings to use as muses. He would sit with them, ponder the feelings behind them, and draw ideas in a notebook. I made a change.

Birico was tasked with looking through hundreds of photographs to find inspiration. He chose certain photos, went back and changed his mind, thought about how they made him feel, the story of Barrera behind each one, and finally gave them his own twist. rice field.

“[Barrera] “He’s very laid back, communicative, a good listener, and a lot of fun to work with,” Birico said of his artistic counterpart. For a while, I was looking back at the show and thinking, ‘I’m so happy that Tony is the artist that I invited to collaborate with him.

The two-year pause for artists to create and recreate their work was a much longer timeframe than before.

“It’s kind of cathartic, really,” says Barrera. “I am ready to forget it and move on.”

While they may be ready to move on from “Photo-synthesis,” the two artists are already making plans to create another show together. A number of works that were produced but were not able to participate in this show will be exhibited in the same space next month.

Ephemeral is a new gallery in Downtown Long Beach at 375 N. Promenade. The space is owned and managed by MADE by Millworks, a gift boutique and art gallery showcasing works by artists who live within 25 miles of the store.

“Photosynthesis” will be on display until December.

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