IN THE NEWS
Getting Under Angel Otero's Skin
By Rebecca Bates
The Brooklyn-based artist challenges painting traditions with his abstract and textured “oil skins.”
For Angel Otero, painting is a living species like any other. The medium must evolve, change its form and processes in order to survive. Otero’s oeuvre might thus be considered a new, cadet branch of painting, one that pushes against art historical traditions while still paying homage to some of its greatest practitioners. Although Otero begins a work with oils and all the established tools artists have used for centuries, his initial painting is done on glass instead of canvas. After this first part is finished, Otero covers it over with gestural brushstrokes, essentially creating flipped painting in which the background obscures the work underneath. Otero puts away this painting on glass for about a month, during which time the pigments only partially dry. He then scrapes the layers of semi-wet paint onto a sheet of cardboard, transforming the texture of his original work. Lastly, Otero slips all of these layers onto stretched canvas covered in adhesive. The final paintings are often wildly abstract, even if their origins began as, say, reproductions of works by artists as varied as Nicolas Poussin, Cy Twombly, and Stuart Davis (all of whom Otero has cited as directly influencing his most recent series). In this way, Otero turns painting into a new beast entirely, one innovative enough to stand as a retort to the “painting is dead” mantra. With a work by Otero making an appearance in a new auction benefiting the Brooklyn Academy of Music, we ask the artist about his background, the most arduous part of his process, and his studio rituals.
Paddle8: What’s the most difficult moment in the process of creating your oil skins?
Angel Otero: The unpredictable outcome when scraping the skin off the Plexiglass.
P8: What is the biggest misconception people have about your work?
AO: Thinking the skins are fabric.
P8: When making sculpture, what has proven the most difficult material to work with? Why?
AO: Combining porcelain and steel, due to the fragility of the porcelain and rigidity of the steel.
P8: You’ve cited Nicolas Poussin and Cy Twombly as being immense influences in your series over the past few years. What other artist are you looking to more recently?
AO: Stuart Davis.
P8: What makes this an exciting art historical time for painting?
AO: The ongoing challenge of painting around the growing digital era.
P8: How does your approach or practice change when creating abstract versus figurative works?
AO: I always combine both, and they always change.
P8: How do you prepare for beginning a new piece or body of work? Any rituals?
AO: Cups and cups of coffee. And music.
P8: How has your childhood in Puerto Rico and your move to New York affected your viewpoint as an artist?
AO: It gave me a wider view and made me more aware of my past.
P8: What is the first thing you do when you get to the studio every morning?
AO: Walk around the paintings.
P8: What are the things or conditions you must have while you are working?
AO: Music and coffee are musts.
P8: What is the one thing you’d save from your studio in a fire, and why?
AO: My grandma’s portrait.
P8: What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not in the studio?
AO: To be at the Strand Bookstore.
P8: What would people be surprised to hear you collect?
AO: I collect pennies.
Click here to bid on works to benefit the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) Visiual program, through March 31.