Angel Otero’s unconventional process—fashioning assemblages or lively paintings using “skins” of oil paint applied to glass before being peeled off—is the draw in his New York solo debut. An awkward anthropomorphic object perched on a chintzy armchair, messy Expressionist interiors in garish colors and one uninspired composition with text demonstrate the young artist’s competing sensibilities. Far better are Otero’s large-scale abstractions—action paintings in which paint itself seems to have agency, shooting off the edge of the canvas, bunching dramatically or seductively veiling its support.
The show’s smallest and punchiest piece—a black number whose surface is concertinaed like a crushed soda can—has an affinity with Piero Manzoni’s pleated white canvas, but in place of purity there is an excess of paint, piled up in waves as if to hide some (perhaps failed?) experiment beneath. Likewise, a blocky form wrapped in streaks of yellow and black traffics in concealment, channeling Christo’s early wrapped objects—minus, unfortunately, the mystery.
The play between a vibrantly colored surface and an occasionally glimpsed support that is waxy and dead is more alive than, say, Steven Parrino’s twisted and pulled canvases, and aligns Otero with Fabian Marcaccio’s use of paint as a sculpting material. Recurrent blurring also recalls Gerhard Richter’s scraped abstract canvases, but unlike Richter, Otero’s intent is to build, not cancel out. His undulating skins re-create the drama of a hastily drawn curtain, awaking the senses and offering a celebration of paint’s possibilities.
Originally published in Time Out New York, issue 807, March 31 – April 6, 2011.