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"Atavisms": Eddie Colla Examines Survival Instincts in a Disintegrating World

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This past week, Bay Area artist Eddie Colla opened his latest solo show at Ian Ross Gallery in San Francisco. Titled "Atavisms," the exhibition is comprised of large-scale portraits and mixed-media works. Colla endeavors on a new body of work of tremendous proportion. A new chapter for his notedly apocalyptic imagery, his figures stand center stage with combative force. Contentious and primal all at once, his subjects appear to have survived some cataclysmic disaster. Equipped with militant accoutrements and expressions of certainty, Colla's subjects challenge the viewer politically as well as psychologically.

Evocative and poignant, most all of Colla's subjects stare directly at the viewer, delivering a kind of fierce acuteness. "Atavisms" elicits intense personal connections between viewer and subject. Colla explains his attempts at this exchange: "My life, my thoughts, my sense of who I am are comprised of lots of seemingly insignificant things. A photograph, a lyric, something my mom said 25 years ago, an album cover, a painting I saw when I was 10. Those are the things that never leave my consciousness and stay with me. They form for me the richness of my life, the extra, the things that are unnecessary and make our lives worthwhile... Ideally that is what I want to cultivate, to contribute. Ultimately one day I would like my work to be one of those experiences to someone. A part of the richness of their life, something that never really leaves them."

Branching out in his practices, the artist experimented with different techniques and media. For this new series of work, Colla utilized palettes, industrial light boxes and pre-constructed structures as a canvases for his photographic transfers. These rough materials along with his distinct mixed-media approach all lend to the time-worn look of his work. Given that Colla is also a street artist, one can imagine this series being plastered among the decaying ruins of a post-apocalyptic landscape as a sort of instrumental tool for these last few survivors. "Found materials have their limitations and that's where the most creative solutions come for me. It becomes a problem-solving game. Because there is sort of an x factor with different material, you have to experiment a lot," explained the artist.

In biology, the term atavism is defined by a return to ancestral traits within our DNA -- even after thousands of years, they act as a kind of evolutionary throwback. If you apply this notion on a societal level, Eddie Colla's subjects are the epitome of our primitive ancestral past. Remaining within us today are traits and tendencies that are not necessarily useful to us now, but could be utilized if need be in the future. As the planet becomes more devastated and human existence has the potential to be compromised, would these inactive social atavisms kick in? Eddie explores these notions in his new body of work and invites his viewers to look inward. Darwinist or not, could you survive?

"Atavisms" is on view until September 18th at Ian Ross Gallery, located at 466 Brannan St. in San Francisco. See a preview of the show below, all images courtesy of 2wenty.