November 10, 2010

It is a fact that the very nature of art is antithetical to commodification; thus, the struggle for survival, common to humanity, is part and parcel of humanity and, certainly, a self-defining characteristic of one’s art. I see security, respectability, fame, and success as obstructions to one’s sense of commonality; and, reactions to events can only be the conditioning of each individual’s wishes to disintegrate: I speak to the notions of fear, territoriality, ownership, and nationality, as being divisive influences which anyone may opt to uproot.

Born into a middle-class family in Valencia, Venezuela, I came to the United States in 1972 and was naturalized as an American citizen in 2001. My interest in art stems from early childhood. Formally I started, at the age of seven in my hometown of Valencia, my studies at the Escuela de Bellas Artes Arturo Michelena. Later in my teens I trained at a private atelier for a couple of years with the Hungarian painter Lazlo Lenyel.

After completing the Venezuelan baccalaureate in humanities from the Colegio La Salle (secondary school) in 1972, my parents sent me to study in the United States. I began taking art classes both at the State University of New York, Buffalo, and Villa Maria College (also in Buffalo). During the academic year 1974-75 and the academic year 1976-77 I resided back in Venezuela, where I studied privately with the Spanish artist José Luis Montero. In 1975-76 I returned to Buffalo under the tutelage of Professor Herta Kane at SUNY Buffalo and James Jipson at Villa Maria College. By this time I had begun to amass a large portfolio of works. In May 1976 I had my first one-man show: “Artworks by Ricardo Morin” at Villa Maria College Gallery. In 1977 the Ministry of Education of Venezuela awarded me a full scholarship to complete a B.F.A. at SUNY Buffalo where I majored in studio painting. I was graduated summa cum laude in May 1980. Before graduation, my thesis show “Buffalo Series 1979” was curated by, Seymour Drumlevitch at the Alamo Gallery of the State University of New York at Buffalo. In March of 1980 I submitted a nonobjective abstract painting, Buffalo Series Nº 1, 1980 , to the 38th Western New York Show at the Albright Knox Art Gallery of Buffalo, and it took the prize in painting: Birge Wall Covering and the Reed Foundation Award. In June of 1980, I had my second one-man show, Buffalo Series 1980 at Hallwalls Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

From the City of Salzburg, when I attended stage-design seminars given by Gunther Schneider Siemsen in 1979 at the Internationale Sommerakademie für Bildende Kunst Salzburg (International Summer Academy of Fine Arts Salzburg), I received the Förderungspreis Leistung der Stadt Salzburg. Seymour Drumlevitch, my then academic adviser at SUNY Buffalo, felt I had matured sufficiently as a painter and recommended I apply to the M.F.A. program offered by Yale University, School of Drama (Design Department). My M.F.A in set-design at Yale was funded by the Venezuelan Government’s full scholarship Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho. A determining factor for my electing a career path as a set designer was in part due to my confidence that I could survive the demands of the New York City art scene if I had also the attendant commercial skills. The degree was subsequently taken secundi honoris in May 1983.

My first five years after having been graduated from Yale, I worked in New York City as a struggling nonunion Off-off-off Broadway set designer with Irene Fornes and Max Ferra at INTAR Theater. I supplemented my income as a principal assistant to established Broadway designers (Robin Wagner, David Mitchell, Tony Walton, Santo Loquasto, et al.). In 1988, I managed to obtain a lease for a working loft in Tribeca, where I continued painting in large formats. In 1988, I entered the “Artist in the Market Place” program of the Bronx Museum of the Arts, which was completed in 1989. Thereafter, I had my first one man show in New York City at the Galería Venezuela on East 51st Street in September of 1992.

Owing to AIDS, I had to go on disability in 1993; sadly this meant giving up my Tribeca studio-space. Believing medical attention was to be in vain, I chose refuge with my family in Venezuela. I abandoned both medical coverage and all previous commercial pursuits. I felt only basic needs demanded attention; guided by my own intuition, I was active and expressive in my own environment, and visual expression came to be the stabilizing factor in the process of convalescence.

Between 1993 and 1996 my health declined and my body withered, yet I began a series of contemplative paintings entitled “Aposentos” (Blankets). The second painting in this series, Aposento Nº 2 was selected for the “XIV Salón Municipal de Pintura: Homenaje a Carlos Cruz Diez, 1994,” Galería Municipal de Arte [City Hall, Maracay, Venezuela].

I volunteered to work in social services at this time for Fundación Metaguardia, which I had both created and directed. Metaguardia was an informational and educational center in Valencia to help people suffering from terminal illness--particularly, though not exclusively, for those who were also indigent. The foundation considered compassion and cooperation as the highest form of intelligence in support of the afflicted. The goal was to create therapies that involved the concept of a psychological revolution through the arts, which paralleled pro bono services by participating physicians. Though the foundation only endured from 1994 to 1996 (it could not survive the economic woes of Venezuela’s collapsing economy), it remains a topic of conversation in my artistic endeavors.

With the arrival of the Anti-Retroviral Cocktail in 1996, my T-Cell count was practically nonexistent, though a sort of radical inertia had strengthened my sense of internal peace and quiet. I returned in December of 1996 to New York to obtain the new treatments as well as the disability benefits provided by Medicare accorded by my status as a legal US resident. Otherwise benefits were not available in Venezuela, because I had no previous work history there. After having reestablished medical coverage in New York City, I was homeless, though I was certain of eventually finding subsidized housing. Indeed, I went from the transitional Hotel Paradise at 2395 Grand Concourse in the Bronx (3 months in 1997) to the assisted-living Time Square Hotel at 255 W. 43rd St.--between Broadway and 8th Ave—(4 years till 2001), to my current subsidized one bedroom apartment (9 years to the present). I managed to continue painting in all the spaces available. Between 2002 and 2003 I attended classes at the Art Student League in order to have ample room to expand my work. I met my life partner in 2000, who allowed me to use his one-bedroom apartment in Jersey City as a painting studio--where I have worked until the present.

In September 1998 support came via the New York Visual AIDS Organization, which curated a one-man show based on portraiture in watercolors and oils along with another member, Nicolo Cataldi, at Saint Mark’s Church. I have had also numerous opportunities to participate in group shows, both in alternative spaces as well as on the web--most recently: Exhibit "In the Flesh," curated by Hong Kong artist Jo-ey Tang, February 2009, and Mr. Tang called my paintings of the early nineties “visual love letters to New York City.” Though nominal and symbolic gestures of support, I have received three material grants from Visual AIDS at various times during the last seven years.

In 2000 I received a VESID Rehabilitation Grant including high-end software and computer equipment to complete a certificate in Maya (a digitally immersible three-dimensional environment and related digital software) from the Advanced Center for Digital Applications at New York University, as well as a certificate in Auto-Cad from the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at New York University. The compendium of these courses has enabled me to use the computer as a painting medium, which is particularly reflected in my 2006-09 Series of Platonic Interactions. Between 2000 and 2003 I also used the computer in combination with the watercolor and drawing medium to explore the nature of visual infinity, by reinterpreting Persian Miniatures of the 15th century, deconstructing, and reconstructing them as a single movement of expression in the confluence of abstract geometry. From 2003 to 2005 I expanded on questions dealing with perspectives synthesizing concepts of pictorial space and infinity. The process of geometrization of gesture became the basis of my paintings which I equated with reaching for the infinite: the mystery and the poetry in one’s individual drama. From 2005 to the present, I have also served as an adjunct professor at Manhattan Pratt Institute, where I teach a course entitled Pictorial Perspective. I designed this course, a survey of methodologies from the Renaissance to the present on perspective drawing, for students of architecture: Its focus is infinity as an art form.

An excerpt from 2006-2009 Triangulation Series Manifesto came into being:

…by allowing painterly abstraction/plasticity to express both in form and content a kind of art that goes beyond a material world of signs. I choose the golden ratio 1 = 1618 as a consistent format for nonobjective abstraction which is clearly inherent of infinite congruency [a manifestation common to all known perspective methodologies], to breakdown a dialogue on the fluidity of the vehicle of painting and its geometry. At the same time, I establish a triangulation of the bare plane of the canvas which reaffirms its paradoxical nature as an object: where the fictitious flatness of the plane plays in suspension with the illusory spatial depth of forms expressed on it. Though immersed in 20th-century aesthetics, I strive neither for a specific historical movement nor for the postmodernist agenda. Simply, I look at making art as a "fleshy" product of human experiencing, a resultant of the maker’s own passion. Just as the idiosyncrasy of an individual, indivisible in nature, is blind to causality, an aesthetic frame embraces all its senses and the image is only the result or residue. Nonobjective, timeless, or even existential—in this sense—the image or Kunstgegenstand seeks not to explain what the meaning of experience is; rather, the image manifests itself, provoking interpretation from the observer. The finished work stands on its own as a concentration of multiple layers; each of the numerous strata is essential to the completeness. There is a sense of multidirectional movement in each of the works that acts on the viewer’s eye as he/she glances over the delineated shapes and peers through the entanglements of strokes and arabesques. The viewer comes away, I hope, with the sense of the works’ generative completeness of a universe making and remaking itself [excerpt from my Blog 05/02/2008].

After completing chemotherapy in 2008 for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma [associated with AIDS], I began to suffer from circumstantial--yet systemic--conditions of tendonitis, which kept me from stretching my own canvases. Having already explored the hanging scroll format as an alternative to stretching formats in my Triangulation Series of years prior, I came to understand how the material and its application behaved in its simplest of terms, as well as what were the limitations of the medium vis-à-vis my own physical limitations, particularly after having had to convalesce for many months. It was during this high state of inertia that I realized how powerful and intelligent “silence” was as compared with all the noise and visual cacophony of the tangible world at large. Well aware of this vibrant energy, of its vitality, as a mirror of one’s apperception or of one’s perceptions of reality in absolute quietness, it was then that the incidental simplicity of the medium and that my own conception of form facilitated empathy for the nature of silence as subject matter.

Between 2009 and 2010, I begin to work on the current new hanging scroll series, Metaphors of Silence. An excerpt of its manifesto reads as follows:

The verbalization of an aesthetic reality implies its own death; no matter how precise, the very accuracy of words resists the magnitude of that reality. Seeing the actuality of art may never take place if born in a spirit fragmented by the illusion of newfangled formulas, immured by gratification or condemnation, pleasure sustained by thought: the avarice of a prejudiced observer; nor is it derived from a contradicting eccentric stimuli in order to draw attention to itself, but it is found in the open space of silence, in the virtuous stillness of a meditative contemplation, in the freedom itself of the known, free to observe with a heightened attention, where questions are unnecessary and responses trivialize the very observation. This aesthetic is not the product of experience, neither the association with the past nor the search for an audience, nor the product of a prevailing market. These fluids are not even aware or unaware; they neither propagate an effort for fulfillment nor are they the product of an egotistic and vain ritual of choice. These fluids are manifestations common to all of us, that which define us beyond ideas and words, that which operates creatively without dependence to the noise of knowledge, that which is not suited to measurements or labels, wherein obscurity itself allows the spread of its vital energy to push forth beyond the bondage of the known. It is creation in living, one’s own awakening and renewal in every relation, if one is to join in the whole movement of life [excerpt from my blog 11/24/2010].

At present, I am collaborating on an experimental art/anthropology-research project with Dr. Andrew Irving of the University of Manchester, UK., supported by a grant from the Wenner Gren Foundation entitled “New York Stories” -- see full description in the Biography link under “Projects.”  My collaborative role is to define, in a chronotopic approach, a biographical journey that is both associated with the nature of silence and its impact on one’s sense of humanity.

Ultimately to be a true artist, one needs to be anonymous.  One is not fully whole by allowing oneself to be bound by desires or ambition, dependence or conformity.  But one can be true to oneself wherever life leads.