September 26 - October 26, 2020
September 26 - October 26, 2020
Harper’s is pleased to present Broken Record, an exhibition of seven oil-paint-and-fabric collages on canvas and five oil-stick drawings on paper by Angel Otero. Marking the artist’s first presentation at Harper’s, this show follows Otero’s several-year relationship with the gallery as a friend and collector, forged by a kindred interest in the interplay between books and art. Harper’s is open to the public seven days a week; no appointment is necessary to visit.
In his elaborately textural canvases, Otero harnesses the potential of painting to convey personal memory and identity through his practice. His work, which ranges from sprawling collages to thickly layered panels, departs from an innovative foundational technique: he paints representational imagery onto glass sheets, scrapes off the partially dried pigment, and reapplies the resulting “skins” onto a fresh surface to produce multi-layered compositions. This generative approach yields unexpected synchronicities of color and form, reinvigorating the visual languages of collage and painting through a gradual process of reuse and accumulation.
For this exhibition, Otero continues his practice of recycling and recombining layers of oil paint while mining his personal history and earlier figurative work for subject matter. Created in the solitude of upstate New York during the Covid-19 lockdown, they incorporate motifs inspired by his grandmother’s home in San Juan where the artist grew up: from her wooden dining chairs and crisp white bathtub to her potted plants and blue-tiled floors. Rather than recount specific narratives or experiences, these paintings explore the enduring weight of memory and the lingering impact of past experience. Otero extrapolates his childhood impressions into dizzyingly surreal compositions, while aggregating ambiguous visual markers extracted from hazy recollections. Plants sprout from sofa cushions, fish glide above domestic furnishings, and derelict ladders stretch off-frame in scenes that evoke the hypnagogic state between waking and dreaming. Marked by a frenetic energy that evinces the volatility of past and present crises, from the global pandemic to Puerto Rico’s earthquakes, these introspective works deftly consider painting’s ability to transport the past into the present and the personal into the universal.
"I was born in Puerto Rico and now I’m based in New York City. I would be lying if I said I hadn't always dreamed of being a painter, of working in spaces that have a certain energy or spirituality to them. I think one of the many reasons for that was, I'm assuming, the memories I had while growing up in Puerto Rico with my grandma, surrounded by the art that filled the places she frequented or occupied, especially her home and church. I have always been inspired by the history of and story behind certain sites."
"Having worked for a long time with a team in my studio, I have recently felt the need to go back to a more individual relationship between me and my work, where I can just paint in solitude—not having to overthink 'what' or 'how' I am making a painting but rather, just painting. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about some of my earlier work where I was exploring elements related to home and growing up with my grandmother in Puerto Rico. There were a lot of chairs, tables, tiles, flowers, and ceramic imagery that populated my older works. I think that when I’m working, I’m looking for that sentimental bridge between an object and what it reminds me of…between an object and a memory."
by Christian Viveros-Fauné
"Otero has formulated a body of work that recently cashiered personal motifs (previously drawn from his own island history). The results are both post-postmodernist and cussedly original — a sort of 'back to the future' of painting that literally crumples the medium."
Angel Otero is best known for his process-based paintings, collages, and sculptural works that venerate the inherent qualities of his material of choice, oil paint. Employing various methods of collage, he explores the potential for abstraction to meaningfully engage memory and identity using line, form, and color. Over the last decade, Otero has experimented with numerous genres and styles, from representational imagery (still lifes, domestic interiors, landscapes), to pure abstraction created using his innovative paint “skins,” to the work he is creating today, which is a harmonious combination of both. In his most recent paintings, recognizable objects and motifs have begun to reemerge through a veil of abstraction―bathtubs, boats, chairs, ladders―seeming to float amidst the frenetic swirls of layers upon layers of vibrant oil paint.
Otero received his MFA in 2009 and his BFA in 2007 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at Lehmann Maupin, New York, NY (2019); Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, NY (2017); Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, TX (2016); Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain (2015); SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2013); and Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh, NC (2012). Select groups exhibitions and biennials featuring his work include The Other Side of Now: Foresight in Contemporary Caribbean Art, Pérez Art Museum Miami, FL (2019); Coffee, Rhum, Sugar & Gold: A Postcolonial Paradox, Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA (2019); Inherent Structure, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2018); Surface Area, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2016); Nexo / Nexus: Latin American Connections in the Midwest, DePaul Art Museum, Chicago, IL (2016); Fusion: Art of the 21st Century, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA (2014); 6th Prague Biennale (2013); El Museo Bienal The [S] Files, Queens International 2012: Three Points Make a Triangle, Queens Museum, New York, NY (2012) and El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY (2011), among others.
Otero is the recipient of the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Visual Arts. His work is in numerous public and private collections including the Berezdivin Collection, Puerto Rico; Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY; DePaul University Museum, Chicago, IL; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey; Margulies Collection, Miami, FL; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC; UBS Art Collection, Chicago, IL; and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA.