Critique Collective

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

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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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Berlin’s Diego Garcia Explores Gestalt Psychology and Interdisciplinary Artwork

Diego Garcia is a transmedia artist from Brazil who is currently living in Berlin. Garcia’s artwork covers a broad spectrum of artistic mediums, including music, video, and design. His work often deals with shocking and disturbing images while managing to retain conceptual integrity. In Garcia’s current series, Projekt Gestalten, he applies theories of gestalt psychology to the fine art world. Projekt Gestalten can also be found online at http://www.projektgestalten.com/.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you find your start in music and how has it translated to visual and video art?

Diego Garcia:
I started making music around 2003, mostly house music and electro. But, after a while, I got bored with it and started approaching more experimental styles such as IDM, ambient, techprono and downtempo. In the meantime, I was studying visual arts at my university. I was so scared because I thought that, at some point, I would have to choose between being a musician or a visual artist/designer. Then it hit me: “why do I have to pick one area if I can merge all of these types of art into one thing?” I think the turning point was at my final graduation project. I made a music-video, but, besides shooting, directing, and editing it, I also made the music and designed the whole visual art promotional material. Then I felt like a true multimedia artist.

Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a work of art? Is it different depending on the medium you’re using?

Diego Garcia:
Yes, it is. With music, I just go and start building up grooves that I like until I get something that I think is consistent. This process can be done in half hour or several hours. It really depends. Now, with graphic design, it’s a little bit more mechanic. If I am doing a project like a visual identity or an advertisement poster for a client, for instance, there are basic design rules in regards to visual psychology, color theory, and geometry that I need to obey. However, if it’s an artistic thing made just for the sake of art, all of these rules can be broken, of course. Now, if I am doing a video or a photographic project I usually already have an idea of what I want in my head. So, I make a little storyboard or sketches and start working from there. Sometimes it turns out the exact way that I wanted, like with the Lars von Trier project, or sometimes completely different, which also can generate very interesting results.
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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about the concept behind your Projekt Gestalten.

Diego Garcia:
Projekt Gestalten is the artistic name for my audio productions and my live act performances. The name literally means “construction project,” and I think that’s exactly what I do, regardless of the medium I use: I construct visual and sonic things. But gestalten also is related to the “gestalt psychology,” which is a concept I have learned while studying at my university. Its basic principle is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So, basically, for you to understand something, you need to see the whole picture as opposed to trying to analyze specific things at first. I think that concept also applies in order to understand my work and maybe even myself. I make a lot of different projects with a lot of different mediums, and I am just trying to put all the pieces together.

Paul Weiner:
Do you like to work with ideas that are shocking? Take, for instance, your “Reality Remix 001 (Sausage Commercial X Pig Being Killed).”

Diego Garcia:
Yes, I do like to work with shocking elements and try pushing the boundaries of standard behaviors. The “Reality Remix 001” project is actually a particularly disturbing one. What I like about this project is that there is not too much shockingly graphic content in this video. Due to the very fast editing work, you cannot actually see what is going on for sure. What it makes it so dramatically disturbing is the sound. Hearing the pig screaming and, at the same time, seeing bits and glimpses of him dying makes you mentally visualize the whole scene inside your head without even having to actually see the whole scene. The juxtaposition of the candid happy sausage commercial just adds another layer to the project. It’s not like I made it all up; this is what really happens inside these meat factories. Despite being a vegetarian, I don’t like militancy, and the goal of the video is not to try to abruptly stop people from eating meat but to create a dialogue about the subject and make them think more about the subject.

There are some videos like “Boi da Cara-Preta (Black-Face Ox),” which is my most viewed video on YouTube, that I would not consider too disturbing. But, it turns out that Boi da Cara-Preta was disturbing to other people. The video is an animation showing kids being devoured by this black-faced ox. The music is a remix that I made from a very traditional children’s lullaby with the same name. The melody is very tender and calm, which can be heard at the end of my version; however, the lyrics always have disturbed me, even since I was a kid. It goes like this: “black-face ox, take away these little children who are afraid of scary faces.”

I’ve received so much backlash for this video, and even some aggressive and hateful threats. I think it’s because most people associate this song with their childhood, and they search for it on the internet in order to relive happy moments. Instead, they end up stuck with my video. It was never my goal to shock people, just to translate the lyrics to their literal meaning.

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Paul Weiner:
Why did you choose to move to Berlin?

Diego Garcia:
It always has been a goal of mine to move to Europe at some point. Initially, I was thinking about going to London to do my Masters in arts over there. However, after spending a week in Berlin, during a backpack trip of mine, I fell in love with the city. It is such an amazing place to be. It’s so artistic, and I like how people are more open-minded around here. Plus, I can do my Masters in Berlin for a fraction of what I would pay in the UK. I also would have to admit that the music scene and the clubbing scene played a big role in my decision to move to the city. I truly feel like I am home in here, and I am already very inserted into the scene within only a few months of living in Berlin. It is funny because, in Brazil and in a lot of other places in the world, I’ve always felt like an alien because of the way I think, behave, dress, etc. But, in Berlin, it is like I have found my mothership back again!

Paul Weiner:
How would you describe the art scene in Berlin?

Diego Garcia:
The art scene in Berlin is vibrant, but, at the same time, it is also frustrating. I love the fact that there are so many art galleries around, but I also think that the market should value the professional a whole lot more. I see ads from these really big art galleries in Berlin seeking art assistants with years of experience, fluency in a lot of languages, and a college degree to work on unpaid “internships.” I mean, not everything is about money, but artists also need to eat and make money at some point. The only projects that I would work for free would be the philanthropic kind or the ones that are way too good to miss out on.

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Paul Weiner:
So, it sounds like you work with clients for graphic design. Would you ever work with clients for your video work or do you prefer to keep it purely experimental and fine art based?

Diego Garcia:
I think, if I could choose, I would always work with experimental/fine art projects, but I also have to make some money to support myself, and that’s not always possible with only making conceptual works. I actually briefly worked in a sound design agency back in Brazil specialized only on making big TV commercials; they even won the Golden Lion Award at the Cannes Festival at some point, and, honestly, I had a blast working there. Sometimes we had boring projects, but, even so, we could get more artistic by coming up with sound effects or recreating music to use in it. I remember when we had to hire a professional opera singer to come up and record a version of the song “Casta Diva” for us to use in a potato chip commercial. But, of course, if I would work with only this, without having my conceptual side projects as a cathartic output, I would go crazy. The same thing goes with video. I could do more commercial works, but I would never stop doing artistic projects in order to dedicate myself exclusively for that. Now, with music itself, I would never ever work with pop artists or with musicians that I don’t like for money.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you ever consider adding painting, printmaking, or a more traditional form of art to your repertoire?

Diego Garcia:
Yes. I would like to do that in the future. I had some classes back in college where I was taught more traditional techniques, but I still would like to learn more. I don’t like to rely on the computer to make art all the time. In the future, I would like to wok with watercolor paintings or something like that.


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

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Simone Rene’s Patterns and Fabric Collage

Simone Rene is a fabric collage artist from Brooklyn, New York who holds a BFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts. Her artwork is available online at http://www.simonerene.com/.

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City Background B5, 11.75″x16″, cloth


Paul Weiner:
When did you decide to begin with the medium of fabric collage?

Simone Rene:
I began working in it about 4-5 years ago. At the time I was doing some mixed-media pieces, paint/graphite/paper/found objects and making clothing, but I couldn’t commit to either because I was torn between my love of fabric and making visuals. I was making a quilt for my nephew, one of my first. It had figures of cute monsters and their toys on it. As I was cutting, positioning, and sewing, the direction I wanted to go in suddenly dawned on me – I know, I know – Duh.

Paul Weiner:
Having studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts, do you see that impacting your style today?

Simone Rene:
I have always loved the figure, and it is pretty central in most of my work. I studied Fashion Illustration in high school and took it at SVA. I think that I am prone to elongating and manipulating the figure to sell the story much the same way fashion illustrators do in order to sell clothing.

The Ancestors A1, 10"x31", cloth

The Ancestors A1, 10″x31″, cloth

Paul Weiner:
The idea of selling a story is interesting, and I can certainly see how fashion is incorporated in your work. So, as far as stories go, do you read your artwork as a narrative?

Simone Rene:
I think of my images as grasping at just a phrase pulled from a whole story, and for me that is where the emotion is.

Paul Weiner:
How do you start one of your fabric collages? It must be tough determining which fabric to use.

Simone Rene:
Usually my concept begins with a thought, words followed by a visual that is accompanied by color. Sometimes I just find a piece of fabric that wants to be something. After I have the concept, I sort through my large fabric collection and go on hunts, both new and used, for just the right fabrics. Once I have the dominant fabric color or pattern, things seem to fall into place. I experiment with combinations and sometimes make variations of the same image. It may take a while, and I may have to return to that image over and over again while I work on other pieces, but it’s ok because art is about exploration.

The Ancestors A5, 12"x31.5", cloth

The Ancestors A5, 12″x31.5″, cloth

Paul Weiner:
Is there a particular color or pattern that has intrigued you?

Simone Rene:
I find myself drawn to black and white patterns, cerulean blues, fuchsia pinks, and flesh tones that are cool – not really into the warm autumn colors.

City Background B3, 15"x27", cloth

City Background B3, 15″x27″, cloth

City Background B1, 17"x21.5", cloth

City Background B1, 17″x21.5″, cloth

Paul Weiner:
You’ve mentioned that your family has resided in Brooklyn since the late 1700s. Could you talk specifically about your “City Background” work and how that relates to your own identity?

Simone Rene:
I grew up embedded in family and surrounded by generations of relatives, both by blood and marriage. We were American, we were New Yorkers, and we were Brooklynites.

When I was little, I don’t ever recall wondering who or what we were. I thought that the diversity of my family was normal. It wasn’t until I began middle school and began to be asked to define myself by ticking off a box that I began to consider “What was I?” note not “Who I was.” It was confusing and disheartening to be asked to define myself and by doing so chance wiping away generations of ancestors that may not be stereotypically present in face or person. It made me a bit of a rebel. I checked all the boxes and when called upon could defend that choice because I knew my family’s stories and history.

I think being generations in the city allowed for the ambiguity that did define my family and I. It allows me to explore aspects of my history with familiarity as well as distance.


Please view Simone Rene’s artwork online at http://www.simonerene.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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