Angel Otero

Angel Otero’s experimental process is at the heart of his non-conventional paintings that explore the imprints of memory and history.

Otero’s practice pushes the limits of painting. His large-scale abstract works bulge and cascade out of the canvas with highly textured, almost sculptural form. The energetic mark-making and vivid colour palettes evoke his Abstract Expressionists predecessors such as Lee Krasner and Willem De Kooning.

  • Solo show Angel Otero: Diario at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, 2019-2020
  • Solo show Angel Otero: Milagros at Lehmann Maupin and Dallas Contemporary, New York and Dallas, 2019
  • Solo show Elegies at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, 2017
  • Solo show Angel Otero: Everything and Nothing at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, 2016
  • Group show 10 Under 40 at Istanbul 74, Istanbul, 2013
© James Chororos_Avant Arte_Otero_06

While Otero considers his work oil painting, it involves a multitude of mediums and materials including collage, assemblage, spray-paint and resin. The artist has also developed his own signature technique creating what he calls ‘oil skins,’ that are layered, distorted, and cut together in his compositions. Otero pulls inspiration from across literature, art, and life, often referring to family photographs throughout his process. By combining these personal histories with his commitment to formal experimentation, Otero presents intuitive fragments of memory in his paintings.

© James Chororos_Avant Arte_Otero_10
© James Chororos_Avant Arte_Otero_09

Throughout his oeuvre, Otero modernises classical references. No Light on Full Moon (2010) is a medium-sized canvas with a dark, monochrome palette that depicts a set of Baroque table and chairs from his childhood home in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The process, as always, is integral to the work: Otero began by painting the scene onto a plexiglass sheet. After a week or so, when the paint had dried, he scraped off the image from the plexiglass, creating his signature ‘oil sheets.’ These sheets were then collaged onto the canvas, and silicone was added to the surface squeezed directly out of the tube. Together, these elements create an incredibly textured surface that distorts the original image, and cleverly reinterpret the histories of oil painting, still life and Baroque, in an eerily domestic composition.

© James Chororos_Avant Arte_Otero_05
“I don’t want my mind to inform my hand, I want my hand to inform my head”

Memory and history entwine and unravel in Otero’s practice. Personal and historic quotations are littered throughout his work from Picasso to Pollock, to his own upbringing with his grandmother. However, by submitting these narratives to his rigorous material process, Otero empties them of their original meaning. This is perhaps why the artist describes his practice as a process of “erasure” — an undoing of History’s project to organise chaotic reality into linear ‘truths.’ These mechanisms of History in Otero’s work also evoke human memory: the rational memory that assembles coherent stories to explain our identities to ourselves and others, and the sensory memory that is felt in the body, and difficult to translate into words. Following his creative intuition, Otero is an artist who challenges the medium of painting, and beautifully transforms the world around him into gestures of somatic memory and materiality.


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© James Chororos_Avant Arte_Otero_06