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Angel Otero debuts a series of recent works at Lehmann Maupin Seoul
Angel Otero: Piel de Luna. Installation view, Lehmann Maupin Seoul, November 1 - December 22, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. Photo: OnArt Studio.

SEOUL.- Lehmann Maupin is presenting Angel Otero’s Piel de Luna. For his first solo exhibition in Korea, the New York-based artist debuts a series of recent large-scale paintings, paint collages on paper, and a tapestry-like work composed entirely of oil paint that hangs directly on the wall. Otero’s practice is rooted in the history of painting and remains dedicated to the tradition of abstraction, recontextualized through his innovative process. His richly textured paintings engage in an exploration of memory by addressing art historical themes and also grappling with the artist’s personal history. Through experimental techniques and physically engaging processes, Otero pushes the boundaries of his materials, drawing much of his inspiration from the inherent qualities of oil paint.

Otero begins each painting by reproducing varied reference images in thick oil paint on a large plate of glass. Once nearly dry, the artist scrapes a skin of paint from the glass surface, allowing chance to play a role in abstracting the images through the process of removal. He then cuts and reworks these “oil skin” fragments into a collaged composition that contain hints of the original painted imagery, but within a new and more complexly layered abstract composition. Through years of careful observation of the interactions and structural tendencies of the material, Otero has forged this individualistic process and style based on materiality and the endeavor of conflating the genres of both representational and abstract painting. The reference image for each painting originates from research, personal memories or belongings, or the style and palette of a historical painter. Through his unique processes of painting, drawing, and printmaking, Otero digests these varied references, creating works that are visually autonomous from the original imagery.

Most recently, Otero has removed the paint from the canvas altogether in his small-scale collages and large-scale works, which are composed entirely of oil paint and hang directly on the wall. Both of these series arose from the remains of old and new oil skins that are cut and then collaged together to create even more complex compositions exploring paint, color, line, and form. In the large wall hanging and the collages, Otero utilizes the fragments of the oil skins as individual brush strokes, creating an even more sculptural version of his previous paintings.

Several new paintings, such as the titular painting Piel de Luna (2018), created for the exhibition reveal references in color palette and gesture to abstract expressionist painters such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. Otero reworks these influences from the postwar generation, erasing his original overt references through the insertion of negative spaces or layering to create an entirely new vernacular rooted in the past yet representative of the time in which it was created. For Otero, the solution to expanding the genre of abstract painting, while maintaining relevancy in contemporary art, lies in an exploration of this transition between representation and abstraction, as well as in allowing the nature of oil paint as a material to play a role in the final composition. In this way, the paint itself emerges as an important conceptual component, mobilizing ideas of chance, translation, and aesthetic vernacular, while the images and themes it is used to visualize become fragments or parts of a history energized by the material.

Angel Otero (b. 1981, Santurce, Puerto Rico; lives and works in Brooklyn, New York) is a visual artist best known for his process-based paintings. While much of his works have been influenced by memories based in photographs and other family memorabilia combined with the gestures of 20th century painting, his latest works highlight the artist's unique process as a form of narrative in itself. Through his innovative process of oil paint scraping, Otero venerates historical oil painting while confronting it head on. Otero's 'deformation' approach to painting his works, first across glass and then once dry, flaying the dried paint and reconstructing the composition anew across large canvasses, is representative of how the artist perceives the process of reconfiguring both personal and historical narratives. Otero’s work sometimes uses process as a way of confronting deep, personal memories. Instead of representing his life through art, he archives moments within it by creating opportunities of surprise and discovery. His work is a constant negotiation between the individual and art history.

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 the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York (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 Inherent Structure, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2018); Surface Area, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2016); Nexo / Nexus: Latin American Connections in the Midwest, DePaul Art Museum, Chicago (2016); 6th Prague Biennale (2013); El Museo Bienal The [S] Files, El Museo del Barrio, New York (2011) and Queens International 2012: Three Points Make a Triangle, Queens Museum, New York (2012), among others. Otero is the recipient of the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Visual Arts. His work can be found in collections at DePaul University Museum, Chicago; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS; the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC; and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA.

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