Sept. 15 2014 06:26 PM

San Diegan heads to Paris for an exhibition featuring watering holes and the creative people who visit them

Raul Guerrero
Guerrero and his painting of The Whaling Bar
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

"The bar... is an exercise in solitude. Above all else, it must be quiet, dark, very comfortable—and, contrary to modern mores, no music of any kind, no matter how faint. In sum, there should be no more than a dozen tables, and a client that doesn't like to talk."

Luis Buñuel

For 13 years, artist Raúl Guerrero has been capturing the dim, snug and unpretentious atmosphere of dive bars on his canvasses. Like a lot of work in the longtime artist's portfolio, the oil paintings are allegorical narratives that aspire to highlight interesting snippets of the history and culture of the Americas.

"I paint them every so often," Guerrero says, talking in his Hillcrest home and studio. "Initially, it was on account of Buñuel and what he was talking about regarding bars. For him, they were places of meditation where you could go in and contemplate... I enjoy a bar, especially the way he describes them, quiet. But, in general, those types of bars don't exist anymore. But bars like that—places artists frequent—they're interesting because there's something about the environment that's conducive to the artistic mind. They're places to just commune with the muses."

"Allen Ruppersberg: Vesuvio Cafe, San Francisco" by Raúl Guerrero

Three new bar paintings by Guerrero are set to go on view at Air de Paris, a contemporary art gallery in Paris from Sept. 19 through Dec. 31. For the work in the show, Guerrero's added another element, portraits of artists he knows and admires. In one of the paintings, for example, artist Guy de Cointet is depicted hanging out at the long-defunct Antrim Bar in Santa Monica.

"All these great old bars are disappearing," Guerrero says, pulling out his large painting of La Jolla's iconic The Whaling Bar, which closed last year. "I'm glad I got to them when I did."

While Guerrero's in Paris, he hopes to add to his series by painting a few Parisian artists in iconic bars across the city.

"Paris is the perfect place to show the work and try to do more," he says, "because it's known for bars that've traditionally been places for artists to hang out."

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