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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Conceptualization of Memoirs

Rey Armenteros

Memories From the Radio-
Of Daughter's Arrival and Father's Farewell

ARC Gallery
14403 Pacific Ave.
Baldwin Hills,CA

The Ladder  2014 (11" x 14" mm, acry, on plexi-glass)

Kicking Baby 2014 (11" x 14", mm, acry, on plexi-glass)

Rey Armenteros current solo exhibition at ARC in Baldwin Hills, CA is , as Armenteros states: " an unbound book" of memoirs dedicated to the birth of his daughter Abigail Su Yun (September 2012)  and death of his father (February 2013). Armenteros, first generation Cuban-American, is also a writer who has dedicated aspects of his art, if not in its entirety, to the conceptualization of memoirs. His current exhibition of fifty-five (11"x 14") paintings is only a selection of paintings based on his visual lamentation of the relationship with his father, the influences of his Cuban heritage dictated by the imprisonment of his grandfather in Cuba, his parents journey to America as young people, and of a reticent new father experiencing a basic human creative act of producing a child.

Armenteros uses the concept of Tarot cards as a "facilitator" for his paintings.  The grouping of the fifty-five paintings is based on the various spreads of Tarot cards. The paintings are installed in "modules" -number spreads of 17, 9, 3, etc.  Depending on how the paintings are grouped, the "unbound" book becomes about something else. The grouping of 17 paintings installed in the main space gives the audience a synopsis of Armenteros' current creative/psychological exploration of his life to this point.  He is not alone with regards to personal insecurities, the need to belong, to be loved and to be able to come to terms with one's own path.  

Armenteros was a child of divorce.  The painting entitled The Ladder portrays three year old Armenteros under the ladder as his father stands on the ladder painting the side of their house.  A splat of paint lands on Armenteros' arm.  This painting memorializes a key moment before his father left their family unit. Many would say that the splat of paint is significant because Armenteros is a painter and defines the incident with an artistic metaphor.  This is true. There are several portraits of his father, Muscles, portrays father flexing his muscles and "sucking in his gut", Death Mask, is a portrait at the end of his life.  Armenteros' selective gestural marks  capture and define an egocentric father with humor, criticism, and mythology. His interest in comic book illustrations is evident in the rendering of the images of his father and daughter.  The definition of memoir and caricature are undoubtedly linked elements in Armenteros' art work; both words describe how a person chooses to remember and interpret a person, place, or thing. 

Armenteros' challenges as a new father are illustrated by images of a crying baby- a frightening and frightened baby.  Armenteros realizes that his daughter is trying to communicate in her own way.  Abigail Su Yun, who's name means "fountain of joy" (Abigail) and "water" (Su Yun) is a true beauty in person.  Armenteros' influence of Francis Bacon's grossly frank and elliptical images exist in the portraits of his daughter. In Kicking Baby the baby's screams and frustrated kicking motions can be heard emanating from the painting. Armenteros' Kicking Baby reaches out to all parents who have been faced with discerning methods of disciplining their children. Armenteros' shared his empathy for his daughter's efforts to communicate her needs.  As an artist, he more than understands creating optimal modes of communication. Humorously, he commented that his wife asked him why he depicted Abigail in such an unflattering way.  Would a beautiful, smiling, pink baby tell the same story?

The paintings are painted on plexi-glass which can be seen from both sides. He begins his paintings by creating images on strips of paint and medium that he describes as "skins".  The skins are painted onto a latex-like surface that allows the pieces to be easily removed.   These copious series of skins are miniature drawings and paintings that will be added to the plexi-glass depending on the story he is about to tell.  His concept of using interchangeable modules in his completed paintings also exist during the planning stages of his work.  

Armenteros has dedicated this current exhibition to the death of his father and birth of his daughter.  Additionally, he credits his interest in Tarot cards and numerology.  During our extensive telephone and gallery interviews, he spoke of his dwindling skepticism about the genuine value of numerology and Tarot cards in his life.  His interests in the metaphysical, mystical, magical and spiritual world can be attributed to his mother. Armenteros described his mother's adult spiritual life as being interested in Gnosticism. Numerology, faith in mythology, and personal views of the world have been part of Armenteros life all along.  The desire to understand someone's own heart is evident in his current series of work.  Perhaps a future exhibition could include or be dedicated to the influence of his mother.

Muscles 2014 (11" x 14" mm, acry, on plexi-glass)

Death Mask 2014 (11"x 14", acrylic, mm on plexi-glass)

Baby Thoughts 2014 (11"x 14", mm, acrylic, on plexi-glass)

*additional interviews on