Saturday, September 13, 2008

Art Space Talk: Angel Otero

I was introduced to the art of Angel Otero during the New Insight exhibit at Art Chicago earlier this year. Angel earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007. He is currently an MFA candidate at SAIC. He has been involved with exhibits at Bucket Rider Gallery (now the Andrew Rafacz Gallery), Galeria Prinardi USA, New Space Chicago and several other galleries.

Brian Sherwin: Angel, I observed your work at the New Insight exhibit at Art Chicago earlier this year. For those who don't know, New Insight is an exhibition of artwork by promising young contemporary artists. The exhibit was curated by Susanne Ghez, Director of the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago and coordinated by Sarah Krepp, artist and professor at UIUC. Can you tell us about your experience at New Insight?

Angel Otero: It was a great experience. It gave me the opportunity to show my work, but also I was able to interact with fellow students from other institutions and a lot of the people involved in the contemporary art scene.
Pretty Crowded, oil on canvas, 60” x 72”, 2008

BS: Angel, you were finishing your studies at the School Of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) when I first contacted you. Can you tell our readers about your experience at SAIC? Have you had any influential instructors? What is the program like? Do you have any advice for students who are considering SAIC?

AO: I think I've had a unique and amazing experience at SAIC... In fact I also received my BFA at SAIC after I transferred almost 4 years ago from the University of Puerto Rico. I arrived in Chicago thinking that contemporary art was Basquiat or Warhol. I didnt know any of the names that I hear everywhere now... from Damien Hirst to Jeff Koons, or from Peter Doig to Luc Tuymans... etc...

I felt so ignorant and lost, I remember In my first critique the professor asked me "so how's life in the 50's", and I actually thought it was a good comment (my english was so bad at the time) until someone at the end of the class told me that apparently he had just negatively criticized my work. But this increased my ambition to start reading more magazines and books on contemporary art and it also pushed me to experiment more with my work.

Instructors including Terry Myers, Michelle Grabner, and Jim Lutes gave me some of the best advise and critiques on my work. Even if they hated the work they would say it in a way that made me want to work more. Now as an MFA student the story is a little different, there is more pressure, but it is still very positive. The MFA program is a great program with a varied selection of faculty, visiting artists and facilities for their students.

As for my advice for prospective students interested in the program, I would say… keep in mind that applying for grad school is not only about having a good portfolio, but also accepting that it is an established community wherein the student support each other and their work. I think if you really want to work without that much distraction with good snow fall outside that keeps you in the studio longer, Chicago is the place for you... (laughs)

BS: Angel, tell us about your work. Perhaps you could discuss your process? Give us some insight into the thoughts behind your work...

AO: My work consists mostly of painting, where abstraction and my experience growing up back home, where I was surrounded by mountains and creativity in a poverty stricken area, play a big role. The landscape that I grew up with inspired me to create these abstract structures that look dense but fragile, full of color and texture, with a lot of viscosity. Sometimes these structures are on top of a small mountain or sometimes the viewer is inside of it.

At the same time material is a copilot at the time of process. I mix my mediums inside containers, usually acrylics or oil paints, but each with different mediums, cold wax, stand oil, linseed, gold or silver pigments, spray paint, clay, sprinkles or bleach and so on., to make a collage of texture in order to pursue different moods and experiences within the painting.

I should mention that probably 80% of the work is intuitive. I come with a plan and do some drawings of it, some of them look like story boards. And I start that piece but shortly after that it starts molding in different ways, usually ending up as a very positive experience and process giving me a feeling of confidence just as the piece is almost finished.

BS: What are the social implications of your work? Is there a message that you strive to convey?

AO: I don’t think I'm looking for any specific message. Most of it is for the sake of painting, the joys and problems that come with it. I feel the need to paint. I try to put the medium itself as the main form of expression. Depending on the placement of a certain medium between other mediums, its personality is amplified giving it the ability to express mood and experience. I combine these personalities with camouflaged subjects.

BS: Can you go into detail about your influences? For example, are you influenced by any specific artists? What about specific aspects of culture?

AO: Well I’m really into the painters paintings like Willem de Kooning, Georg Baselitz, Joan Mitchell, Philip Guston, etc…

I have been interested in Neo Rauch lately. I think his work is great and impressive in that he collages all this information so well and in such a painterly way. I also love conceptual art and three dimensional art, it all helps me see painting differently.

BS: What are you working on at this time?

AO: I have been kind of figurative lately. I’ve been painting these kind of installations that recreate portraits using pots, plants, abstract little sculptures, wood, ladders, etc, etc, etc… but everything painted.

I’m not sure where it is going to end, but so far it has been a fun problem.
Untitled (Abuela), oil on canvas, 84” x 84”, 2008

BS: Angel, where can our readers see your work in person? Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

AO: Well, I’m still in school so I’m taking it easy with that. However, because of Art Chicago I have received a lot of attention from some galleries. I was invited to a group show similar to that one in Tenerife Spain, at a gallery named Leyendecker, and there are some other shows coming soon, but I guess I’ll put the notice up on my website at,

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

AO: It feels good to do what I have always wanted to do…

You can learn more about Angel Otero by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

1 comment:

harold hollingsworth said...

really fantastic work, very energizing to witness! I look forward to following what you do, glad to have found your work!