Angel Otero: Interwoven Mementos
Angel Otero’s solo exhibit Milagros at Lehmann Maupin is an interwoven assemblage of personal experiences, anecdotes, and art history. Otero, 38, is a New York-based, San Juan-born, Latinx artist who creates with a relentless intention to challenge ideas around abstract painting.
What separates Otero’s work from other artists is his use and manipulation of materiality. He sources materials from thrift shops and repurposes salvaged fragments of old paintings – stored in his Brooklyn studio – to create new, stronger, finished works. Another distinctive element is his deliberate placement of multi-layered oil “skins” on fabric. He places countless pieces of paper atop each other to achieve texture, tactility, and depth in his paintings.
The past also plays a major role in Otero’s work. He jogs his memory to interweave his heritage with art history. This is what I tend to consider “woke art,” where an artist’s work strikes the balance between paying homage to a white-dominated canon (Willem de Kooning) but also honors his roots. Otero strikes such a balance by incorporating personal anecdotes like Milagros – charm jewelry nostalgically recognized in Catholicism to protect one from evil and bad luck.
Otero also titled some of his paintings in Spanish, an ode to his native tongue. Additionally, the colors applied in paintings like Dreaming in Blue are reminiscent of the richness of his homeland's Caribbean crystal blue waters and flaming-orange soils. Otero is currently working on opening a second studio space in his native Puerto Rico. Otero makes a sincere effort to connect his audience to his Puerto Rican traditions all while contributing ideas to contemporary art today. Accomplished. He did this.
Milagros was on view at Lehmann Maupin from March 7 to April 20, 2019.