Art New Mexico: Ted Laredo
I'm visiting one of two studios that Ted Laredo occupies, and he shows me an anomalous piece with text that reads: Art is easy. It's an unexpected bit of humor in his otherwise refined body of work, and not what I expected. This piece upends his minimalist aesthetic, and hints at the range of his studio practice, which is expanding in all kinds of ways. - Diana Gaston, New Mexico Contributor
When Laredo relocated to Albuquerque from Laredo, TX, he took the name of his hometown. He explains that it was as much a reference to his most revered Renaissance artists (many of whom took the name of their birthplace), as a way to define this new chapter as an artist working in New Mexico.
Early on, he developed his own signature blend of phosphorescent pigment and glass micro beads, creating works that quite literally glow. This is the same reflective material used in highway signage that makes them legible at night; but in his handling the industrial material achieves a poetic luster of soft color and the glow from accumulated daylight. Most of the work is purposefully quiet, utilizing a decisive line and compressed palette to lend the shimmering surface a degree of restraint. In one recent painting, for instance, he renders one of the four sacred mountains in Navajo mythology, Blue Bead Mountain, out of a few angular lines and two tones of blue.
Ted Laredo | Sgr-a*, 12.75 X 12.75 inches, micaceous iron oxide flake
In a new body of work he ratchets up the brilliance by working with pure micaceous iron oxide flakes. The shimmering black material is dramatic, magnetic even, simultaneously absorbing and reflecting light. Some unexpected associations emerged as he began to work with the material, such as its similarity to the micaceous clay seen in pueblo pottery, or the properties of the iron itself, with its chemical compound abbreviation of Fe echoing Santa Fe (in Spanish, fe translates as faith). These references to place are inherent in Laredo’s practice but not immediately evident. The mica creates a brilliant, celestial surface that summons up the immensity of the night sky or a meteorological event. The title of one piece, sgr-a*, makes a subtle reference to NASA explorations of the Sagittarius A-star, a supermassive black hole recently discovered within the Milky Way galaxy. This piece is modest in scale, about 12” square, as it is one of Laredo’s early experimentations with micaceous material; but its surface achieves an ambiguity of scale, prompting a certain longing for the infinite depth of space between us and the stars.
Diana Gaston is the Director of Tamarind Institute, a division of the College of Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico. She previously served as Lead Curator of the Fidelity Investments Corporate Art Collection in Boston.