Marked by sticks of burnt wood, the drawings of bathhouses, and a piece of a palm tree that now grace the walls of the art museum, it is clear that the internationally-acclaimed artist Danny Jauregui has arrived.

"Absent the Center," which opened this past Tuesday, and has transformed the Shaw Ruddock Gallery, showcases Jauregui's diverse talent in bringing together pieces of various media and conceptual approaches.

Jauregui first caught the attention of Museum of Art staff in 2005 when he attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine.

Skowhegan, one of the most prestigious summer residencies for artists, has been a staple of the Maine art scene since its inception in 1946.

Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow Diana Tuite noticed Jauregui's work and was immediately struck by his powerful creative concepts when she began looking into the Skowhegan artists.

"I selected [Jauregui's] work because I thought that it offered many thought-provoking points of access for the College and community audiences in terms of issues of history, architecture, identity politics and aesthetics," said Tuite.

Jauregui had a passion for art from a young age and knew that he wanted to pursue it as a career. He attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and received his Master in Fine Arts from UC San Diego.

Jauregui's work is inspired by his daily life and the observations he makes.

"I respond to the places that I live and to my surroundings," said Jauregui. "I'm inspired by the city of L.A. and the neighborhood I live in."

"Absent the Center" is a conglomeration of Jauregui's works from multiple collections. Jauregui experiments with different mediums and subjects, but his distinctive style is clear in each drawing and sculpture.

"It's very interdisciplinary as a whole show," said Jauregui. "On the surface [the pieces] look like geometric abstractions, but there are a lot of different layers going on in the work."

Common themes that pop up in Jauregui's pieces focus on depth, optical illusions, black and white, and architecture.

While many of the pieces incorporate these familiar premises, Jauregui also expands into other territory to create work that is uniquely his own.

A memorable feature of the exhibit is an installation of three large drawings that are part of Jauregui's recent "There Goes the Neighborhood" series. The drawings depict former bathhouses in a Los Angeles neighborhood, an area known for its gay population.

Jauregui's attention to detail is seen in his realistic representation of the bathhouses' tile floors and walls.

Jauregui takes his realism one step further by using a chemical effect to create the illusion of mold or mildew on some of the bathhouses' walls.

Two other works that particularly stand out are "House Alchemy #1," and "Palm Frond with its Throat Cut."

The drawing from Jauregui's House Alchemy series is the only piece in the exhibit that was drawn in color. The drawing is the artist's interpretation of suburban life and is both realistic and abstract.

"Palm Frond with its Throat Cut" is a sculpture that Jauregui made from a palm tree branch he found.

While the piece initially seems like simply a piece of a palm tree lying on the ground, the work is described as representative of issues such as the status of illegal immigrants.

Palm trees may be associated with California, but they are not a native species. Their proliferation in Los Angeles has led to urban feuding because of maintenance difficulties.

Jauregui's sculpture inspires comparisons between the introduction of new species and new peoples. "Palm frond with its Throat Cut" is another example of a piece of art inspired by Jauregui's daily life in Los Angeles.

"His work succeeds in being personal without being autobiographical, meaning that it is performing serious inquiries which are central to his experience, but it is not hindered by ego," said Tuite.

One of the most powerful pieces in the exhibit was created through Jauregui's experimentation with burnt wood. The innocuous title "BLTN" refers to a series of wooden letters that spell out BETTER LATE THAN NEVER across a wall.

Jauregui's artistic prowess and innovative vision are what make his artwork so exciting and meaningful.

"I think the works on view are not only technically beautiful, but they use that beauty to melancholy ends," said Tuite.

"Absent the Center" is not meant to solely be pleasing to the eye. Jauregui's vision for his exhibit is that it will inspire viewers to think, not to just look.

"I'm more interested in having people contemplate and question my work," said Jauregui. "I want to leave them curious about things."

"Absent the Center" will be showing in the Shaw Ruddock Gallery through June 6, 2010.