Angel Otero (b. 1981, Santurce, Puerto Rico; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is best known for his process-based paintings, collages, and sculptural works that venerate the inherent qualities of his material of choice, oil paint. Employing various methods of collage, Otero explores the potential for abstraction to meaningfully engage memory and identity using line, form, and color. Through a methodically innovative process, the artist paints representationally onto large sheets of glass, scrapes the partially dried oil paint from the surface, and then reassembles the resulting “skins” into multi-layered compositions. In this way, the paint itself emerges as a crucial conceptual component, mobilizing ideas of chance, conveyance, and aesthetic vernacular, while the images and themes it visualizes become fragments or parts of a history energized by the material. Much of Otero’s early work was directly influenced by personal memories based on photographs and other family memorabilia combined with the gestures of painters such as Nicolas Poussin, Pablo Picasso, and Willem de Kooning. Instead of representing his life through art, he archives moments within it through a constant negotiation between lived experience and art historical references.
While best known for paintings that are all over abstractions collaged from a single paint skin that the artist carves into, Otero’s newest body of work features representational imagery painted directly onto blank canvases and paint skins, foregrounding images drawn from Otero’s memories of his childhood while maintaining the artist’s signature process and abstract style. In this new series, recognizable objects and motifs―beds, house plants, bird cages, couches―seem to float amidst or emerge from the frenetic swirls of layers upon layers of vibrant oil paint. Each painting engages with memories associated with specific objects or spaces, in this case items found in the home. Though memory has always been a key narrative component of Otero’s work, it was previously expressed through material specificity or patterning. Now, depictions of items tied to childhood memories (particularly of the furniture from Otero’s grandmother's home in Puerto Rico) are combined with art historical influences that range from Pierre Bonnard’s interiors, to Joan Mitchell’s vibrant palette, to Georges Braque’s use of fragmented and fractured space. Otero’s inclusion of beds, bathtubs, and chairs invites us to consider our own relationship to these quotidian objects, while also reflecting the artist’s personal history, family, and domestic space. These objects function as subjects, in place of the traditional figure or landscape, and exist as both concrete forms and repositories for memory, their significance constructed through their daily use and the accumulation of associations.
Otero received his MFA in 2009 and his BFA in 2007 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at Lehmann Maupin, New York, NY (2021); Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, NY (2017); Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, TX (2016); Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain (2015); SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2013); and Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh, NC (2012). Select groups exhibitions and biennials featuring his work include The Other Side of Now: Foresight in Contemporary Caribbean Art, Pérez Art Museum Miami, FL (2019); Coffee, Rhum, Sugar & Gold: A Postcolonial Paradox, Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA (2019); Inherent Structure, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2018); Surface Area, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2016); Nexo / Nexus: Latin American Connections in the Midwest, DePaul Art Museum, Chicago, IL (2016); Fusion: Art of the 21st Century, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA (2014); 6th Prague Biennale (2013); El Museo Bienal The [S] Files, Queens International 2012: Three Points Make a Triangle, Queens Museum, New York, NY (2012) and El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY (2011), among others.
Otero is the recipient of the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Visual Arts. His work is in numerous public and private collections including the Berezdivin Collection, Puerto Rico; Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY; DePaul University Museum, Chicago, IL; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey; Kemper Musem of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; Margulies Collection, Miami, FL; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; UBS Art Collection, Chicago, IL; and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA.