Arturo Herrera is a Caracas, Venezuela born artist who is known predominantly for his painting, but has begun to explore a body of mixed-media paintings including collage, works on paper, sculpture, relief, wall painting, photography, and felt wall hangings. The inspirations of his work namely include the processes that he has to go through in order to create the final piece.
The colourful mixed-media paintings that are created in the newest body of work use multiple techniques resulting in multilayered surfaces that both reveal and obscure the process of their making (Sikkema Jenkins Co, Sikkema Jenkins Co). He uses strategies of fragmentation and layer which has been adapted from earlier collage based works. The works that he creates are provocative and open-ended with the techniques of fragmentation, splicing and re-contextualisation.
As part of his works Arturo Herrera accepts failure in order to be able to learn and grow as an artist. He still doesn’t like the idea that he has worked on something for hours and think it is going to be really good and it does not live up to expectation.
Herrera’s work began with used images from cartoons, colouring books, fairy tales, and the combination of fragments of Disney-like characters to create unique collages. The Disney-like characters themselves contain violent and sexual imagery in order to make work that border between figuration and subtraction and also subverts the innocence of the cartoon and refers back to darker psychology. The process that is used in the creation of these pieces starts off with a large data bank of images and cuts outs. Herrera then pieces them together in order to create a pattern and paints on the opposite side of the piece. An exactoblade is then used to cut out the shapes that were previously drawn. These have to resemble the exact shapes, curvature and general style of cartoons, due to the style of the overall final piece. The edges are then burnished in order to create a completely flat piece and attached to a piece of museum board to make it look more ‘professional’. To see the process, visit Art21.
This artist loves to experiment and play with the work through change, accidence and very hard discipline. This leads his work to taking it a step further by photographing fragments of his collages. He then submerges the undeveloped film in hot water, cold water, coffee, and tea, in order to create unpredictable results when printed. The last stage of this is to edit the photos into a grid of images to create a work that is greater than its individual parts (Art21). Herrera also loves to play music and play with music in his artwork. Music, he finds offers no solution and no content. He has mentioned that he like to create artwork that is non-subjective, just like music.
“I think there is a potential for these images to communicate different things to different viewers in a very touching way. But that experience is not a public experience, it is very private, and very personal.” – Art21
Stretching from these works, Herrera has also explores with felt works by cutting shapes from pieces of felt and pins it to the wall. This is so then the felt hangs from the wall as a tangled form, resembling drips and splatter, much like Jackson Pollock’s paintings. This is also seen in some of Arturo Herrera’s paintings which are intricate and evocative, abstract compositions. Recently, Herrera has moved onto painting directly onto gallery walls in order to create large-scale compositions of wandering biomorphic imagery. These themselves blend a broad array of references and method including that of modernist strategies of fragmentation, re-composition and repetition, and to the highs and lows of the popular and elite Western culture and the kinetic art or public art ventures of the artists native Venezuela in the fifties and sixties.
‘Faculty Band’ is one of his most recent exhibitions and exhibits works that are radically novel, both in technique and scale. This is reportedly the closest to ‘making’ that this artist has ever been. In this exhibition, his paintings are literally made into paintings – there is a large emphasis on three-dimensionality and the revealing of the constructive, accretive nature. The pieces combine traditional media associated with painting-making (linen, canvas), along with every day materials such as cloth bags, felt and commercial banners. Another layering process within his work allows the conversation of his own vocabulary and that of Georges Braque, Kurt Schwitters, Daniel Spoerri and David Hammons. It has been described by Thomas Dane Gallery that “in a real ‘tour-de-force’, they simultaneously reveal the secrets and entrails of their own making, as well as accumulating layers, planes and ‘veils’ that render their ‘whole’ or unified examination almost impossible. These will be ‘punctuated’ by more intimate objects: small paintings made from/onto flea-market books, from a whole variety of genres. The books, now with their pages sealed in by the spills, marks and drips of the painting process, are transformed into ready-made grounds for gestural abstraction. They ressemble a painter’s study or variations on Paul Serusier’s ‘Talisman’, proposing a new kind of reading, both obliterated and open-ended, both as signifier and signified.”
Herrera’s wall paintings, collages and photographs don’t look like graffiti, but they are deployed in a similar way. His foreground patterns resemble abstracted brushstrokes or a child’s scribbles. Yet these marks have been enlarged, extracted or translated into the idea of the artist’s gesture, rather than the original mark itself. Herrera couples these shapes with scenery borrowed from mass culture, such as colouring books or Disney cartoons. Like a graffiti artist, he literally inserts his expressive mark into an artistic landscape that already exists. – Frieze
Arturo Herrera’s full CV can be found here, and is not represented by his own website. The home of his artworks is the Thomas Dane Gallery, London. His works have been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the United States and Europe, and currently lives and works in Berlin. Previous one-person exhibition venues include Centre d’Art Contemporain, Dia Center for the Arts, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Whitney Museum of American art, UCLA Hammer Museum, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, and The Tate, London.