Critique Collective

Critique Collective is your source for information and interviews about emerging and established contemporary artists.

Tag: photography

Personifying Color with Moisés Aragon

Moisés Aragon is a multimedia artist born in the USA who identifies as a Cuban because of his undocumented status and family history. His artwork explores his personal identity as it relates to his Cuban heritage while also personifying colors with the guidance of color theory. His work can be found online at http://threeturpentine.com.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you describe why you’ve gotten into making artwork that relates to Cuba?

Moisés Aragon:
To some extent, the entirety of my body of work relates to Cuba. It’s technically my native land. My family is from that great Antilles, so my bloodline resonates. I do remember the natural feeling of being cuban since childhood, and I’ve kept that identity ever since.

When I started with what would become my art career at the age of 8, my thought process of leaving a legacy of art was not of being a U.S. artist but a Cuban artist – somewhat rhetorical for an 8 year old, huh? It wasn’t until adulthood, 19, that my work truly reflected an intentional reflection of the nationality that I’ve always identified with. Withholding irony, this transition coincided with being shortly before my first visit to my country.

While on the island, I produced a brief series comprising of rubbled, corrugated sheet metal onto which I was painting with the now-faded characters of the P.Y.AL series including green and something else I can’t remember. Producing that series most definitely laid the foundation for the current incarnation of P.Y.AL. Aside from the P.Y.AL series, I’m currently focusing on quasi docu-style photography/video work, a mix between candid, surrealist, and architectural work.

The next transition is producing art, tangible or otherwise, in my country and having that work become part of the legacy in progress.

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Paul Weiner:
Explain the idea behind your P.Y.AL Series.

Moisés Aragon:
The current form of the series started in Chicago, circa 2009. At the time, the series itself was in purely abstract/conceptualist form with a strong emphasis on color theory and the relationship between Pink, Yellow and Autumn Leaves & Red and Payne’s Grey (occasionally brown and green). I had been developing the series for 10 years prior, so it felt right to transition to something explicitly figurative and to explore another relationship. This time it was between traditional media and technology. I have since embraced what I view as a concise merger between traditionalism in art and being a contemporary artist in the 21 century.

I decided to incorporate traits of myself onto each figure, and, as a trio, they do indeed encompass the artist as a whole. My love of nature, relationship with plants, and yearning to have my own garden are embodied in Yellow’s weaponry, a young avocado tree in a planter. Autumn Leaves’s needs to care for his companions during battle with no remorse for personal consequences is a trait that I certainly have with my companions. And Pink, well, Pink is an amalgamation of fantastical factions and the attribution there of but with a not-so-obvious conscious understanding of the reality surrounding him.

This series, in its current and past incarnations, offers the viewers or patrons a chance to understand intimately the psychology of the author of each painting, drawing or video.

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Paul Weiner:
Given your legal status, have you found that people in the art world discriminate against you or your artwork in any way?

Moisés Aragon:
Yes, absolutely. One of the major misconception about the self-taught artist is that any work produced by one isn’t refined or it’s not art because it can’t be justified without a BFA/MFA. How can I put this? Creating art is nonsense. Drawing a twi inch line and nothing else on a piece of paper could be and, for the sake of argument, is an exhaustive and satisfying effort. But it’s just a line. However, having a BFA/MFA facilitates doors being opened for networking opportunities, and, in turn, that line on a piece of paper has a 100% chance of, at the very least, getting exposure in a gallery.

Another issue that comes with being undocumented is that you are susceptible to having your work stolen and plagiarized. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. I’ve had gallerists, peers, and close friends who are getting decent exposure steal from me with their justification being, “well, he’s a nobody, so it doesn’t matter.” I mean it’s great that my work is good enough to be stolen, but it’s hard not being able to recover copyrights and lost profits.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you view your work as being conceptual?

Moisés Aragon:
I definitely have conceptual pieces in my portfolio, but, as a whole, I wouldn’t say that what I produce is solely conceptual.

Paul Weiner:
What art medium is your favorite to work with?

Moisés Aragon:
To be honest, I don’t have a favorite medium. Budget is a major factor that dictates how my work gets executed. The series itself, P.Y.AL, is ever-evolving from medias to dimensional incorporation, augmented reality, to concept.

Paul Weiner:
Could you explain your process for making video art?

Moisés Aragon:
I’ve only recently started to execute video art as an extension to my P.Y.AL series and for Cuba-related work. Video work that is specific to a series is more or less researched and planned out in tandem to 2-dimensional work. For example, the 2-D side of the P.Y.AL series showcases vignettes of battles and fighting scene between the protagonists and the antagonists – Pink, Yellow and Autumn Leaves versus Red and Payne’s Grey, respectively. The live-action side of that series, video work, emphasizes the down-time or, rather, what happens between battles and conflicts. In one video, I have Pink wandering through an abandoned warehouse or factory searching, exploring, reminiscing, and lamenting the moment after a battle. Currently, I’m focusing more on creating a sustainable amount of shorts that would explain the characters’ poses, fighting or otherwise, seen on paintings and drawings.


Please view Moisés Aragon’s work at http://threeturpentine.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Christian Duvua Gonzalez Blurs the Line between Abstract Painting and Photography

Christian Duvua Gonzalez is an artist from Coral Gables, Florida working in mediums of abstract photography and painting interchangeably. More of his artwork can be found online.

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Paul Weiner:
Your abstract paintings and photographs are very similar in aesthetics. Do you purposefully look to create photography that fits together with your painting?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
Yes. On some of my abstract paintings, I channel through the vision from some of my photography and create a unique style of painting. However, I feel abstract expressionism gives me the opportunity to connect with the freedom I seek as a painter.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you find subjects for your abstract photography?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
I have to thank my dad for giving you the answer for this question. I remember like it was yesterday when my dad told me this for the first time. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, he said, “Son you have to look both ways when crossing the street.” Well, I took that to heart, and I added up, down, and all around to that equation. I feel that art is everywhere, all around us, and all we need to do is open our minds to pay attention.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us how you begin a painting.

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
Well, I can tell you what I don’t do when I start a painting. I don’t start with an empty canvas. I don’t believe that anything is empty; everything possesses the ability to open your mind, from a white canvas to a stain on the ground. I start my paintings in a relaxed state, usually with a glass of pinot noir and some music as I let the mood take over.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you prefer a certain type of board or canvas to paint on? Also, do you print your abstract photography in a way that it can be viewed with your paintings?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
I love all surfaces, from wood to canvas, and even linen napkins. I feel every surface has an inner shape screaming to come out. Allowing it to come to life is the reward. I try to separate my photography from my paintings to show the meaning behind the vision, but, in some of my photography, I try to make it simple for the viewer to translate the connection between the two.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you name a few artists you’ve drawn inspiration from?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
I have been influenced by different artists from different eras as I’ve gotten older, but there are few that have impacted my mind in a personal way. I find inspiration by Albert Kotin, Barnett Newman, Hans Hofmann, Robert Motherwell and Gerhard Richter.

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Paul Weiner:
I noticed that a lot of your artwork has geometric themes to it. Would you consider your work styled on geometry?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
Yes. I have a huge passion for math and equations. I feel that geometry plays a big factor among artists, as it helps guide the structure of a subject.


Please view Christian Duvua Gonzalez’s artwork and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Ruthie Schneider Vast Library of Photomanipulation

Ruthie Schneider creates photomanipulation artwork by sampling from a vast library of her own photography in order to create aestheticall pleasing compositions. Her abstract compositions are also available for viewing online here.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us a bit about how you got involved in this type of photography and manipulation.

Ruthie Schneider:
Up until about two years ago, I had been doing primarily street photography in my travels and still life photography of things that caught my eye in my environment. I was somewhat bored with my work. I had been to a painting workshop out in Oregon and was experimenting with abstracts. My closets are littered with unfinished paintings!

When I saw what one could do with post processing methods, a light went on in my head about merging an existing photograph with another, or several. This is a challenge, as I have to visualize the shapes and composition of the images, and make a decision as to where the strongest elements are. I go through a process of changing the rotation, RGB curves, contrast, and such until I find two or three images that work.

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Paul Weiner:
Was your photography similar stylistically before you began using digital tools?

Ruthie Schneider:
Not at all. I was raised on the Zone System of photography back in the 70s and followed in the footsteps of the “f/64 club.” After I sold my darkroom equipment and focused on raising babies, I transitioned into doing travel – street and still life photography.

Digital manipulation has totally opened up a new world for me, one which allows me to utilize both my painting skills and photography to reach a happy medium. I actually feel as if I am producing a canvas. It is always a pleasant surprise to see two, three or sometimes four images merge to produce a totally different result.

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Paul Weiner:
Is your photography influenced at all by abstract expressionism in painting?

Ruthie Schneider:
Absolutely! That and my keen awareness of shadows, textures and light.

Paul Weiner:
How do you balance raw camera images and Photoshop as tools for abstract photography?

Ruthie Schneider:
Well, I actually don’t use Photoshop for my work. I use a free online app called PicMonkey, which I use for enhancement and occasional manipulation. I have a huge library of photographs from my travels and day to day stuff. I have photographed many unfinished, abstract paintings that my daughter and I have done that are languishing in our house! I also utilize images of various ‘textures’ as you will; rust, peeling paint, shadows, etc.

When I set out to make a new image, I pick something from my library that perhaps doesn’t make it on its own, but that can come to life when merged with a texture or painting.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you find a subject for your work?

Ruthie Schneider:
As I mentioned, I draw upon my vast library of images that go way back. I revisit photos that need help!

In my travels and walkabouts, I like to shoot from the hip so that, often, I leave out what is happening at eye level. I enjoy this method as it gives a skewed look. Since I have started merging, for lack of a better term, I also shoot textures.

I had a grand time behind Walmart, photographing all of the pallets with plastic shrink wrap that had water droplets beading everywhere. There were also flattened boxes with layers and layers of color and texture. Old cemeteries have endless opportunities, and we are fortunate to live in New England, land of historic graveyards. Other places that have wonderful subject matter are airports. Cleveland comes to mind, but just about every airport gives me great inspiration, especially when spending hours hanging around while flights are delayed. Farmers markets, food, and dogs in the street strike my fancy as well.

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Paul Weiner:

Is your chief concern aesthetics or are these photos all connected conceptually?

Ruthie Schneider:
I have groups of images that share the same element of texture. For instance, I will use a photo of a shadow and merge it with several scenic, still life, or street photos. So, you will see that connecting theme, but that would be the only connected concept.

Paul Weiner:
What types of cameras and equipment do you use?

Ruthie Schneider:
I keep it simple. I am not one of those with two cameras and long lenses hanging around my neck—the smaller and lighter, the better. I began with a Nikon D40 when I first started using digital, and it was strictly for travel. Right now, I am totally enjoying a Fujifilm X100, which reminds me of a Leica, extremely quiet. It has a fixed lens, which forces me to compose more carefully.


Please view Ruthie Schneider’s artwork and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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