Under the skin of Angel Otero’s memory-infused paintings

In a show at Lehmann Maupin New York, the Puerto Rican artist mines childhood memories and channels Abstract Expressionist greats

2020 part of The Fortune of Having Been There
Angel Otero, Untitled, 2020, (detail).
(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London)

Toilet paper, bedposts, chairs, birds, house plants, dominos: the more you consume of Angel Otero’s work, the more there is to unearth. 

Over the past decade, the New York-based Puerto Rican artist has concocted his own, distinctive take on abstraction, one which fuses the personal with art historical, and invites the viewer to dive in. 

In his forthcoming show at Lehmann Maupin New York, Otero is turning his attention to the home in a series of abstract paintings imprinted with domesticity and childhood memory. 

Angel Otero in his studio

Angel Otero in his studio, 2020.

(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London)

The artist is perhaps best known for his innovative paint ‘skin’ invention, whereby he layers his image composites atop plexiglass, peels the drying paint off in one sheet, and drapes the oil-paint membrane onto a canvas. In ‘The Fortune of Having Been There’, Otero paints directly onto his skins and puts his distinctive spin on the more familiar route of paint to blank canvas. 

In these new paintings, collaged in construction, and wildly gestural in execution, domestic objects appear to levitate in a melodrama of frenzied hues. Carrying the depth and acuity of a true materialist, Otero’s paintings invite as much scrutiny of medium as subject. Jarring and fantastical, they reflect the imprecision and distortion of memory, while anchoring the paintings in a specific time and place. For Otero, that place is his grandmother’s house in Puerto Rico, depicted through fragmented domestic objects that have become repositories of the artist’s personal history. 

art by angel otero


(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London)

art by angel otero

Above: Angel Otero, Lucky Mirror, 2020. Below: Lucky Mirror, 2020 (detail).

(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London)

Beyond introspective, Otero’s paintings are odes to his Abstract Expressionist predecessors, and they all feel within reach: the dynamism of Willem de Kooning, the lashings of Jackson Pollock and the electric shards of Joan Mitchell. 

Though these memory-infused chronicles may live in the past, Otero’s paintings hold contemporary significance in an age when the intimacy and fundamentals of domestic space feel increasingly close to home.

art by Angel Otero

Angel Otero, Untitled, 2020.

(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London)

art by Angel Otero

Angel Otero, Untitled, 2020.

(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London)

INFORMATION

Angel Otero, 'The Fortune of Having Been There', 28 January - March 27, 2021, Lehmann Maupin, New York. lehmannmaupin.com

ADDRESS

501 W 24th St
New York, NY 10011

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Harriet Lloyd-Smith is the Arts Editor of Wallpaper*, responsible for the art pages across digital and print, including profiles, exhibition reviews, and contemporary art collaborations. She started at Wallpaper* in 2017 and has written for leading contemporary art publications, auction houses and arts charities, and lectured on review writing and art journalism. When she’s not writing about art, she’s making her own.