Bar Paintings

Raul Guerrero

January 15–March 23, 2019

Time(s) Out

One afternoon last week, I drove to (The Gallery at) Michael’s, only to find that it was closed. I didn’t even think to look up hours before I made the trek, but alas, I was early for dinner service with nothing to do in between. So, I said to myself, go to Chez Jay and have a drink – it’s been ages and I know at least one of Raul’s paintings is set there. Chez Jay was also closed – which for a dive bar of such repute, seemed impossible. Driving culture? Health and wellness? Sign-o-the-times? These days there simply aren’t that many places in Los Angeles to have a drink before 5 pm.

Luis Buñuel recalls, “I can’t count the number of delectable hours I’ve spent in bars, the perfect places for the meditation and contemplation indispensable for life.”(2) What might generation Headspace think about that? Bar as escape room AND self-realization center? Where else can you be simultaneously immersed in selfness and adjacent to the everyday (think being-at-the-bar in relation to being-in-the-world)? Being there (dare I call it bar-sein), one may fill up, empty out, unload, get loaded, as hours and life pass by…

And this time is of the essence in the bar paintings of Raul Guerrero, currently on view at The Gallery at Michael’s, Santa Monica. Like the best bars, these paintings are timeless – one never knows if it is day or night. These paintings are also out of time – made across decades and depicting sites that do not change. Anachronistic and enduring they are records of (better?) days gone by, portraits of people and places no longer with us or on their way out. In two of the works, everyone at the bar possesses watch faces in place of heads, some reference to Kienholz I should probably know, but to me, it’s all about killing/wasting/whiling away time, the best things to do at a bar.

Spatial perspectives are similarly complicated. Sometimes we find ourselves at the bar with the painted patrons (Ed, Guy, Al…)(3), other times, we’re simply (bar) flies on the wall. Equal parts antisocial and gregarious, the bar is one place you can go out and stay in at the same time. Seeing so many of Guerrero’s bar paintings together, in a site of service like Michael’s, further exaggerates the repetitions implicit in bar-ness – sip, sip, sip, sip, slip…

Meet me at Michael’s. See you in Santa Monica.

– A. Stamp, Los Angeles, 2019

(1) For those interested, Michael’s Santa Monica is open M – Th 17.30 – 21.30, F, Sat 17.30 – 22.30, and closed Sunday. Chez Jay is open Mon – Fri 11.30 – 14.00, 17.30 – 21.30, and weekends 9.00 – 2.30
(2) Luis Buñuel, My Last Sigh, trans. Abigail Israel (New York: Vintage Books, 1983), 41)
(3) Kienholz, de Cointet, Ruppersberg