The technique of collage pervades all of Arturo Herrera's work while offering the artist the means to research its aesthetic possibilities. Arturo Herrera's diverse body of work, which spans collages, paper cut-outs, paintings, prints, felt works, sculptures and wall paintings, is built on Arturo Herrera's investigation of the two traditional poles of art: representation and abstraction.
In his work, Arturo Herrera gravitates towards abstraction, from which he always pulls back. He loads abstraction with concrete legibility, which he simultaneously tries to dismantle. As a result, one is confronted with an image that may gravitate towards the representational. However, a closer look will always reveal the representation's unbecoming, its restless refusal to be tied down.
Fragmentation is perhaps one of the concepts that better describe Arturo Herrera's practice. Uprooted and dissected from original sources, elements full of references are reassembled by Arturo Herrera into new images. Arturo Herrera's decontextualized fragments invite a multiplicity of interpretations as they confront the public's desires, memories, and associations.
Arturo Herrera's suite of three etchings with photogravure elements, Portal, is the artist's most recent work in graphics. As with many of Arturo Herrera’s collages, wall paintings, objects and sculptures, the works in this series are distinguished by clearly defined shapes and strong colours.
The etchings' pink, ultramarine and bright red colours vibrate with warm and frenetic energy. It is interesting to see how Arturo Herrera continues to incorporate collage's most basic principles in printmaking. Like in much of his other work, Arturo Herrera weaves art history, time, figuration and abstraction together. The three works assert themselves emphatically in the space and, at the same time, give off disintegrating elements of a larger non-linear narrative. This temporal dimension to Arturo Herrera's works is very much present in this series of three etchings, as they happen both here and elsewhere simultaneously.
For the etching series Portal, Arturo Herrera incorporated the images taken from a book, bringing forward elements from reproductions of paintings by Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Piero di Cosimo and Peter Paul Rubens. Perhaps a trained eye will be able to identify some of the references, like the first humanised dog in art history taken from Piero di Cosimo's oil painting, 'A Satyr Mourning over a Nymph' (ca. 1495), but an analytical reading will only take you so far. Arturo Herrera doesn't write an explicit subtext into it. He uses collage to dissolve traditional hierarchies of representation, ensuring that shapes of pure colour will try to assume the role of protagonists in the composition. Same colour shapes serve the role of obscuring parts of the historical references, and it is precisely this tension between what is revealed and what is concealed that Arturo Herrera plays on. Arturo Herrera is fascinated with the idea that the less the image reveals, the more we can project into it.
Portal can be seen as a musical ensemble, where each image is considered in relation to the series as a whole, as Arturo Herrera insists that the works should be viewed together. While colours create a nuanced quality of touch, shapes and lines introduce movement into those works that move back and forth between wanting to be entered as pictures and encountered as a bridge for multiple readings.
Arturo Herrera, born 1959, Caracas, Venezuela. Lives and works in Berlin, Germany. He received a BFA from the University of Tulsa, OK (USA) and an MFA from the University of Illinois, IL (USA).
Arturo Herrera’s recent exhibitions and site-specific installations include Constructed Collage, Ruby City, San Antonio, TX (USA), Mirror, Feld-Haus Projects, Berlin (DE) and the long-term wall painting Together at the Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL (USA). His work is included in the collections of the Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid (ES) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (USA) and The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (USA) among others. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, ArtPace San Antonio, The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation and the DAAD, Berlin.
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Like Arturo Herrera also Kaspar Oppen Samuelsen's artistic universe seems to weave different art historical sources and time periods together into an open ended narrative that invites a multiplicity of interpretations.