Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Reinvigorating the Oil Painting Tradition

“New York was an interest to me since I was a kid,
reading about de Kooning and Pollack.
The New York School fascinated me.”
Angel Otero

For the Puerto Rico born artist Angel Otero the last decade has been an amazing journey. For not only has he developed a new artistic process that involves elements of painting, collage and printing but he has also achieved his childhood dream.

As he told Life and Times Tamara Warren “I wanted to someday be in a studio in an old factory with my paintings around and see the city of New York from my window. That was a major dream for me.  Now I’m pretty much living it; it’s awesome.”

In 2004 at the age of 23 Otero was living in Puerto Rican city of Bayamón selling insurance by day, studying at the Universidad de Puerto Rico and painting at night. A scholarship to Chicago’s School of the Art Institute, where he gained both a Bachelor and Master of Fine Art, was the first step toward New York.

It was there that he discovered a unique approach to making his images.

As he recalled “In school, the professors criticized my work harshly. That was frustrating. I converted that into a hunger, trying to put out there what painting is. One day, I started making this painting that I didn’t like. I scraped the paint off the canvas to reuse the canvas and the material, that muddy oil painting. I kept it in my studio, which a lot of painters do. I remember that moment the pure impulse in a moment of exploration: I grabbed a big bunch of dry oil paint and collaged it on wet paint. I thought it was interesting to construct a painting based on a collage made of dry oil paint. These pieces [of] work were really appealing and I finally started having some good critiques at school.”

Over time Otero refined his process to that which he employs today.

About which New York’s Village Voice has said “Using a now-signature method in which he lays oil paint onto glass panes in order to subsequently peel off their “skins,” the artist then devised a way to reattach his flayed sheets onto waiting canvases—thereby crafting finished works that look partly like spontaneous 1950s abstractions (of the Art Informal variety), but also like torn, graffiti posters found in outer borough subway tunnels.

And about which Otero told Artspace Magazine’s Andrew Goldstein “People might wonder, "Why do I need to go from the traditional method to this more untraditional way of using paint?" I think painting just needs to be justified over time. There are periods of time where people will say that the medium is dead, or everything has been done. My process is a way of saying that there's another thing painting can do that no other method can accomplish. It's an approach that's very unique, but I think what's most important is that it makes a statement in a very historical context.” 

Otero’s current exhibition of New Paintings is on show at New York’s Lehmann Maupin’s Chrystie Street gallery until the 31st of December.

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