In Nocturne, Luis Santos flays the skin off a contemporary city and wraps the entire length of West Gallery’s walls in a sheath of distorted sheet metal. Five oil paintings on shaped wood panels mimic the jagged texture of crumpled architectural steel. Placed side by side, they span the circumference of the space, creating an immersive modern landscape clad in plate armor.
Santos creates a beautiful three-dimensional illusion with his brush: flat surfaces billow out like curtains cut from steel—tactile, metallic, and threatening. By plunging the gallery in darkness and illuminating the panels with flood lamps, he heightens the drama of his shimmering hyperrealistic mirage. A panorama in chiaroscuro unfolds. The play of light and shadow enhances each angle and contour, making Nocturne leap off gallery walls. Sharp-edged industrial materials move like pliable fabric; a building’s metallic membrane is endowed with surprising sensuousness.
Interpreted as a single installation, Nocturne is a night-time construction scene transplanted inside a gallery. It reminds jaded city dwellers of the unexpected visual pleasures found in every metropolis, and schools them in the aesthetics of their engineered environment. This exhibition builds on Structures, a show born out Santos’s interest in random abstract forms and patterns found in mechanically created assemblies. By continuing to offer a god’s-eye-view of urban topography, the artist awakens the eye to the grace of streetlights dancing on galvanized steel.