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Last Saturday in Milan I had the opportunity to see the first solo exhibition of Alvaro Barrington, and artist recommended to me by one of lulo’s founders Mar Soler, a true art connoisseur.
The exhibition was a wonderful delight!
Who is Alvaro Barrington?
Born in 1983 Caracas, Venezuela to Grenadian and Haitian parents and raised between the Caribbean and New York, Barrington’s practice explores interconnected histories of cultural production.
He is mainly considered as a painter, but his process to image-making is wide-ranging, as his works include the application of diverse non- traditional materials such as concrete, wood, textiles, yarn, burlap, cardboard, clothing, and postcards, prints, drawing and photography. For the artist, each media has numerous possibilities, and each is a tool to represent both individual as well as collective cultural narratives.
What is the exhibition about ?
Referencing both Jay-Z’s “I keep one eye open like CBS” and Frank Ocean’s “I see both sides like Chanel” Barrington’s "Sea both Sides" is a very personal take on this play on words: having moved to the United Kingdom, Barrington reflected on his experience in London, across the sea from New York City, and being able to see new, multiple sides of the United States from his new vantagepoint.
"Sea both Sides" premieres Barrington’s first sculpture: NO Work on the Block, aka Gated Community, Milan, 2022, a monumental structure that resolutely, imposingly inhabits the space that used to be Casa Corbellini-Wasserman’s central living room.
The works in Sea Both Sides are framed in materials ranging from metal to cardboard and mirrors thus creating a new dialogue with the home’s turn of the Century architecture. Indeed Barrington sees cardboard as a “new marble”: it is the epitome of our contemporary reality, at once reminiscent of “arte povera”, as much as a ubiquitous reminder of our online Amazon delivery age.
The cement portraits in Sea Both Sides find their starting point in Barrington’s study of Picasso’s work, which was profoundly impacted by the Spanish flu and World War Two, and resulted in his figurative paintings representing heavy, corpulent female bodies modeled after sculptures. It quickly became clear to Barrington that almost one century apart, similarly harrowing experiences are influencing his own practice, with war and the pandemic still looming, but also the silent pandemic of the opioid crisis that is plaguing our contemporary societies.
Rather than paint sculptures himself, Barrington chose to paint with cement, translating this same heaviness directly onto the soft, textile surface of his velvet carpet canvases. His application of cement to outline each figure’s silhouette is swift and gestural, creating an elegant balance between their complex, long construction and the painting’s spontaneous, gestural process.
I encourage everyone who is in the area of Milan to go and see this incredible exhibition that spoke to my heart in so many wonderful ways.
The exhibition of Alvaro Barrington is located at Casa Corbellini- Wasserman in Milan until December 6th, 2022 don't miss this opportunity!
Here some photos of my favorite pieces.