Rico Solinas

You Never Know

You Never Know presents four series of plein air paintings, created by Rico Solinas from 1990-2024, which document industrial environments and ungentrified holdouts in the margins of San Francisco. The pieces are linked by his immersion in the Bay Area physical and political landscape: he paints outside, under bright skies, in intimate contact with people and communities. By playing with canvas shape, alignment and arrangement, Solinas creates an oblique composition that questions conventional presentation. 

In the 1990s, naval bases around the Bay provided the warship material for US intervention in the ongoing Kosovo war. Solinas’s paintings of these vessels, shown in a checker board formation of off-kilter ships, invoke an emotional seasickness towards the US military-industrial complex.

The tondi (Italian for circular paintings) were painted in reverse, using mirrors attached to his easel, and reflect the topsy turvy, unorthodox nature of the Bay Area. Resembling the convex safety mirrors found in parking garages, these portals of optical curiosity offer a new way of looking.

His handsaw paintings depict the exteriors of art museums in the Bay Area, New York and Italy, a network seldom seen in a single space. Their surreal rendering on handsaw blades underlines the power and impact of these institutions on artistic communities.

Solinas’s small gouaches, his most recent project, were created in the streets of the Bayview district of San Francisco over the course of four years during the COVID-19 pandemic. These paintings document a community that has historically been overlooked, and as such evolved an attitude which accepts the uncertainty of life, where one’s best made plans often turn out differently. In life just as in art: you never know.

Rico Solinas was born in Oakland, CA and received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Solinas currently resides in East Bay. His work is in the collections of the Houston Fine Art Museum and SFMOMA. He has shown at Paule Anglim, John Berggruen and Terrain Gallery.

Works in the Exhibition