Emerging artists ANO and Jack Cutri paint with minimalist brushstrokes 

click to enlarge From left, emerging artists Jack Cutri and Emiliano “ANO” Diaz.


From left, emerging artists Jack Cutri and Emiliano “ANO” Diaz.

Getting into a white walls gallery is the goal of many artists, but there’s something to be said for showing art at ‘alternative’ spaces. Several local cafes, bars, restaurants, and other venues regularly display artists’ work, gaining perpetually refreshed decor while giving emerging creatives a boost.

Such is the case at Fuego Coffee Roasters (1 Woodbury Blvd.), where this month visitors can check out “In Focus,” a show by young painters Emiliano “ANO” Diaz and Jack Cutri, which opens Friday, Feb. 9.

Eight paintings from each artist line the white-painted cinder blocks of the cafe’s interior, complementing the space with their spare, minimalist aesthetic. ANO and Cutri both have highly recognizable, engaging styles — a rare quality for young creators. Cutri’s work is stark and plays with shifting, indefinite forms, while ANO’s use of rich hues, heavy repetition of geometric forms, and creation of Escher-like liminal spaces keeps the eyes ricocheting, pinball-like, around his painted environments.

The two bodies of work were created in the years since the pandemic began, and both seem to embody this odd space of time. ANO’s work gives a street-view glance up at high rises with only vague hints of life — a lit office or apartment window here and there — and Cutri’s work is an impressionistic, fairly contact-less view of minutiae one finds at home, around town, and in various establishments. There’s no real gaze upon other souls, just a lonely exploration of scenery.

Cutri, 25, works in IT and was a computer science major and art minor at school. Though art has been his sanctuary since he was a young child, he never really went for it until COVID hit. He had only just graduated from college and was working a landscaping job where he spent his downtime sketching.

“I would just draw in the back of the truck,” he said. “So a lot of these paintings are inspired by black and white pen drawings.”

These recent large-scale paintings blow up his quick gestural drawings of minutiae, giving them a hand-drawn graphic novel treatment, fore-fronting bits of scenery that may or may not have some hidden significance in good, inky noir.

click to enlarge RAFAEL RODRIGUEZ.
“I just walk around,” Cutri said of his process. “And I'm looking for contrast, but vague subject matter, but you can kind of infer there's like something going on around it. I like patterns, contrast, lots of light.”

Based on his own snapshots, Cutri has reimagined the pastries counter at Voula’s Greek Sweets, a close up of tinned fish arranged in a pinwheel shape, and a cluster of tchotchkes. Among his strongest works are “Loitering,” a cluster of snow geese treading water, but in Cutri’s style they’re are depicted as wee white bird shapes floating together in a black void — step back and they’re dust, or a splay of stars in the vacuum of space; and “Decision Fatigue,” an up-close portrait of the patterns of shirts and partial hanger shapes in his closet.
Nearing abstraction, a strength of Cutri’s work is in the cropping choices when he’s zooming in or out of what he’s viewing. No matter how random the subject, he passes a deliberate feeling to the viewer — a sense of too much, claustrophobia, alienation, or sneaky playfulness.

ANO, 32, is the more established artist of the two, and has been commissioned to create paintings in addition to several shows in the past few years, recently completing a massive eight-by-four-foot painting of downtown Rochester commissioned to hang in the Wilder Building. He’s become known for his cityscapes that, while void of human forms, seem to have their own personality due to his keen vivid hot and cool color choices, which he mixes himself.
click to enlarge RAFAEL RODRIGUEZ.

ANO’s paintings of mostly brutalist buildings, with their repetitive blocky forms and perfect grid of windows, could be based anywhere, but locals of the respective cities they’re sourced from can easily identify the views. He draws inspiration from various different photographers’ views of downtown sights in Rochester and other cities. Others he references from life; one painting in the show is of a structure he spied in Boston from the back of an Uber he was taking to see Canadian Indie band Men I Trust.

ANO says he’s going for a combination of a pop art and art deco style, and has been in that mode for a few years.

“Living in the middle of downtown for the whole pandemic on Liberty Pole Way really shaped and influenced a lot of my newer work,” ANO said.

click to enlarge RAFAEL RODRIGUEZ.
Some of his paintings feature blocky high rises against stark, richly hued skies, their windows and shadows perfectly aligned. ANO has deviated slightly from that formula in many of his recent paintings, replacing the sky with sharp, diagonal rows of narrow glass windows, giving his creations that familiar sense of the old-dwarfed-by-new feeling cities now have.

All of the sharp lines — achieved through the precise application of taped guidelines — combined with bright planes of color and a keen attention to shadows create both a flattened-out world and an eerie dimensionality.

“I'm kind of getting more Minimalism in it, I think,” ANO said. "I'm trying to get the sense that I can get [the paintings] to look almost all the same.”

The artists each have roots in Canandaigua; Cutri is from there, and ANO, who was born in Argentina, grew up in Canandaigua, bounced around a bit after a collegiate flirtation with graphic design, and moved to Rochester at age 21. Cutri moved to Rochester more recently, in the fall of 2023.

While both artists had a sort of circuitous, indirect path toward the industry, they’re now certain making art is what they want to do. They have shown their work at alt spaces in Rochester and Canandaigua, and ANO’s work was featured in a group show at Rochester Contemporary Art Center in 2022. As young artists cutting into the scene, both Cutri and ANO say they’ve been delighted with the support and community that’s here for artists.

“This is a small city, but I mean, there's a lot of people doing things all the time,” ANO said. “You got to keep up, but I dig that because I'm a busy bee.”

See “In Focus” through the end of February at Fuego Coffee Roasters.

Rebecca Rafferty is an arts writer for CITY. She can be reached at [email protected].
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