“Al Souza”, ARTnews

Reviews: National


Arthur Roger – New Orleans

By John Kemp, ARTnews

To Houston artist Al Souza, art is a puzzle. Literally. Souza creates extraordinary collages with pieces of jigsaw puzzles salvaged from thrift stores and garage sales. The witty results are puzzles themselves: mosaic-like, abstract arrangements of hundreds of images that play on one”s urge to find order in a world of chaos.

Souza, who refers to his large assemblages as paintings. starts by spreading jigsaw puzzles on the floor of his studio. From the top of a stepladder in the middle of the room. he looks down and chooses winch pieces to use. He then glues these random sections of puzzles to large wooden panels, building layer upon layer the way a painler builds up paint to create depth and richness of color.

"Night Vision", 2004, puzzle parts and glue on wood

Within each of his largely abstract, complex compositions, a theme can be identified: sea life, trains, cartoon characters, food, snowcapped mountains, or any other number of subjects he collects from the often banal photographic images that appear in some jigsaw puzzles. The most offbeat in this show was Loaney Tunes (2003), a round panel that might be read as a childhood flashback starring Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny.

In Night Vision (2004), perhaps the most impressive piece here, Souza cobbles together sections from puzzles that give gleaming postcardlike glimpses at the skylines of Paris, Manhattan, London, San Francisco, Moscow, Las Vegas, and other cities. His fractured, frenzied, dense arrangement of images works as a metaphor for the parallels and interconnectedness of urban life in different cities.

Collaged together. these snapshots seem loosely narrative, as though Souza were presenting, in a kaleidoscopic stream of consciousness, hundreds of memories of different moments. At the same time, the pictorial disorder evokes the disconnected visual overload that people endure throughout their lives.