Arts / Galleries / Arts - Dallas

The Bold, Contemplative Works of a Puerto Rican Artist Finally Make Their Way to Dallas

Angel Otero's Process-Based Paintings Can Be Found (and Bought) in Brian Bolke's Newest Retail Outpost

BY // 07.08.20

“I’ve been feeling the need to go home for some time.” Those words accompany the suite of paintings that make up a small exhibition of Angel Otero’s work that debuted along with The Conservatory on Two (Brian Bolke’s new retail outpost located above Chanel in Highland Park Village). The quote, which the mid-career artist devised while sheltering in place in his Upstate New York studio, echoes how many of us have felt during the coronavirus pandemic.

Otero has exhibited in museums around the country, including an acclaimed 2016 show at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. He was born in Puerto Rico but calls Brooklyn home; he received his MFA and BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His exhibition at The Conservatory on Two — his first show in Dallas — is presented by blue-chip gallery Lehmann Maupin and curated by Sarah Calodney.

Otero is known for his process-based paintings, collages, and sculptural works. Here, five paintings sit quietly in a meditative corner of the light- and foliage-filled store, adjacent to Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs. During my tour of the exhibition one afternoon — my first outing involving a face mask — Calodney says that Otero has already made quite an impression: Four of the works in the exhibition have sold. A yellow painting titled Painter’s Bath is the only one that hangs solo on its own wall, in reflective isolation. “I’m waiting for it to resonate with the right collector,” Calodney says. “I want it to have a good home.”

Angel Otero’s “Painter’s Bath,” 2019, oil paint and fabric collaged on canvas, courtesy Lehmann Maupin
Angel Otero’s “Painter’s Bath,” 2019, oil paint and fabric collaged on canvas, courtesy Lehmann Maupin

The works are abstract, but within them, the figure has begun to re-emerge. Otero started out as a figurative artist, but along the way he realized that pulling and deconstructing those images felt the most personal. The work is extremely labor-intensive. “Otero’s process involves painting directly on to glass, and then he scrapes the partially dried oil paint from the surface, then reassembles the resulting ‘skins’ into multilayered compositions,” Calodney says. Art history is referenced through his gestural brush strokes à la de Kooning, while the composition of one piece seems an homage to Matisse.

As I stand and reflect on this soulful sanctum created by Otero, I notice a display of coffee-table books with Phaidon emblazoned on their spines. One in particular catches my eye: Rihanna’s recently published hefty tome. A smile slowly creeps across my face. Hey, maybe that’s all we need to stay sane in these surreal, often uncertain times — some contemplative art juxtaposed with a music diva turned cultural icon.

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