While most of the attention in the Nelson Gallery is currently attributed to the main show taking place in the Art building, a small collection of photo collages by Jimmy Jalapeeno are on display at the entryway gallery.
Unlike the other three artists on exhibit at the main gallery, Jalapeeno is a graduate of the UC Davis department of art during the “legendary ’70s.” He learned under the tutelage of the famous faculty that included Wayne Thiebaud, William T. Wiley and Robert Arneson, professors he said he holds in esteem.
Three of his works are currently on display in the entryway to the Nelson Gallery offices – Ventura Bunny Barbara, Downtown Blue Passage and Breakfast in Heaven. All three are colorful large-scale photo-manipulations taken from his recent collection of photo collages. Jalapeeno’s style is unique and is hard to pin to any certain style from which he draws inspiration.
“If there is any point at all to being an artist – and there does not seem to be – it would have to be to show what you yourself see differently from everybody else, and how in the world that might be of use to anyone other than yourself,” Jalapeeno said in an e-mail interview.
His art for art’s sake presents a window into a unique world. Jalapeeno draws from the Hindu concept of the Veil of Maya, who he described as “the god-figure who has made the great pile of stuff that limits and delineates our existence and seems to be substantive, meaningful and total, but is not.”
He said that as a non-religious person, he would rather comically relegate Maya herself to the pile. He calls this concept the “Great Matrix of Being” and commits various pieces of it liberally to form his creations to make something that is symbolic to society.
The works have met positive feedback thus far. Department chair of UC Davis’ art and art history department, Professor Lucy Puls described Jalapeeno’s work as “fresh and very current.” She said she found the work to be beautiful and compelling by its use of different perspectives.
“I like how the work goes back and forth between scales,” she said, a feature that can be seen particularly in Downtown Blue Passage.
Curator Renny Pritikin decided to put Jalapeeno’s art up after talking to him last year. He described Jalapeeno as the “most humorous satirist” at the time he was at UCD.
While it is common for graduates to stick around the area after their graduation, Jalapeeno’s work coming to Davis is a unique occasion.
“Some of our graduates that go to the program are from this area, other people tend to stay here until they get a position somewhere else,” Puls said. “The great thing about a college town is that interesting people tend to stay.”
Jalapeeno graduated from UC Davis in 1973 with a Master of Fine Arts. After leaving Davis, he went to Austin and worked as a photographer for the Texas State Historical Commission. To him, the position as a photographer for the state was one much more rewarding to him than taking his MFA to a teaching position.
He has since retired from his work to rededicate his life toward art.
“I got a health plan and retirement, which I am now enjoying while I exclusively practice art,” Jalapeeno said.
“The Return of Jimmy Jalapeeno” is currently on display at the Nelson Gallery entryway. For more information, visit nelsongallery.ucdavis.edu.
TOMOAKI HIRAI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.