Emilio Villalba & Tamsin Smith, “Alphabet I,” oil on panel, 24.5 x 24.5 inches framed, 2019. The painting is signed by both artists on the reverse.
A Southern California native, Emilio Villalba received his BFA from the Art Institute of California in 2006, and his MFA in Painting from the Academy of Art University in 2011. Villalba has exhibited widely; in addition to several solo exhibitions at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco, he recently showed at Paul Booth Gallery in New York City in 2019 and at Cordesa Fine Art in Los Angeles in 2017.
Tamsin Smith was born in Cambridge, England, and grew up in Coconut Grove, Florida. She graduated from Kenyon College and is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. She has had two solo exhibitions at Adobe Books Backroom Gallery in 2018 and 2019; and exhibited in group shows at Modern Eden Gallery, Incline Gallery, Guerrero Gallery, and Kings Gallery (Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco).
This painting was one of 15 collaborative paintings exhibited at the Adobe Books Backroom Gallery in a show entitled “The Painter’s Alphabet” in 2019. In promotional material for the exhibition the gallery explained the collaborative process:
Creative collaborations hold unique challenges, as well as opportunities for expansion. In an effort to avoid simply merging their individual styles onto a common surface, Smith and Villalba adopt rudimentary rules as a way of building their artistic dialogues with a shared toolset. Proceeding in turns, they work through the basic strokes of “the painter’s alphabet” — vertical line, horizontal line, ascending diagonal, descending diagonal, C-curve, S-curve, then repeat, repeat, repeat — until reaching the universal question that plagues all artists: is it done?
By removing the ability to lean on personal patterns or go-to skills of portraiture and figuration, the artists create work that neither would or could have composed alone. This forced “unlearning” opened up fresh possibilities and emboldened Smith and Villalba to deliberately pursue colors they normally avoid. The sensation of learning to trust themselves and each other during these ventures into unchartered territory is one that the artists hope translates and inspires their viewers.
The exhibition was favorably reviewed in “Two Hands, One Brush: Tamsin Smith and Emilio Villalba Collaborate @ Adobe Books Gallery,” Juxtapoz Magazine, December 20, 2019.
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Tamsin Smith & Emilio Villalba, at Adobe Books Gallery, November 23, 2019. Photo by Matt Gonzalez.