Adrián Menéndez / Flourescent black curated by Anelys Álvarez
Adrián Menéndez / Flourescent black
OPENING: Friday, Apr 5, 2019
On the Fluorescent Black Paintings… But Not Only
Way of a Preface
A current student of Art History and Fine Art, Adrián Menéndez (b. 1992) uses abstraction to delve into the drama of the contemporary experience. Coming from a family of artists, he is nevertheless creating his own path within the arts. Fluorescent Black is the title of a new series of works where Menéndez mixes gestural painting with geometric patterns and shapes. By conciliating these apparently separate forms of artmaking, he explores the possibilities and (dis)similarities of both artistic languages, and the impact that they have in the resulting composition.
Process is an important part of his practice as each painting can change many times before reaching its final version. In the process, the artist experiments with the selection and intensity of colors as well as with the intentional clash between the free brushstroke of the gestural painting and line drawing. However, the author of Pulse, M11 Train Bomb, 9/11 and Sandy Hook Locker does not make art in a vacuum confining abstract art to formalism. The Fluorescent Black series is part of a larger body of works dealing with violence, suffering, memory and the social turmoil of American reality. This series takes inspiration from a long list of violent acts including terror attacks and mass shootings whose frequency has increased exponentially in the last decade. In an act of synthesis that aims to capture the ephemeral nature of memory, Menéndez eliminates all circumstantial elements to leave only traces of the crime scene. The fine lines recreating a bar countertop, a window or a door, along with the vibrant acrylic or natural colors are remnants of the tragedy.
For Menéndez, the tragedy of our time goes beyond each carnage to involve the desensitizing effects of being continuously exposed to violence through the media. As an educator himself, the artist communicates his concerns about the future making a point on the time constraints and other issues faced by American families at large. His original approach to materials is combined with a philosophical message about violence, segregation and other social matters that link this series of paintings to his performances, videos and other digital works.
The artist by himself
On the occasion of the exhibition, I had the opportunity to interview the artist and talk about the inspiration and context of his practice. His ideas provide standpoints to understand the work of this young artist whose career we must attentively watch.
Hello Adrian, tell us a bit about your beginnings in art? Coming from an artists’ home, I suppose this was a determining factor, but tell me about your journey. When did you decide you wanted to become an artist and why?
ADRIÁN MENÉNDEZ -In a way I always knew but got distracted along the way with interests in cooking and medicine. At a young age I had already been showing signs of unusually high skills in draftsmanship. Regardless of whatever was my current interest I’ve always spent my free time drawing and painting. By the age of 16 I had seen most of the major art museums of the world and had grown up 16 years amongst some of the best artists of Europe, Latin America and even the United States. I was around the age of 17 and in my final year of high school when something pushed me to pursue art. My interest only grew as I began studying Philosophy at Miami Dade College. As my schooling furthered and I graduated, I immediately went to Florida International University with renewed interests. Art had become an obsession and I wanted to become well-versed in history, fine art and philosophy in order to further my work. Although I came from a family of many generations of artists and my parents were professional artists, my goals differ from that of a professional artist. I did not see myself as a painter or sculptor nor do I desire to specifically make a living through it. I wish to be something more than a contemporary artist. My goal is and has been to further my field by taking it somewhere new and to set an example of a new standard in what an artist should train and work like.
Abstraction is often mistaken as an evasive language, but your work, although abstract, is not alienated from its context. How would you explain that? Do you consider yourself an abstract artist or not necessarily?
AM ………… The first and simple answer is no, I don’t consider myself as an abstract artist because that would mean that I am dedicated solely to abstraction. Every past art style and technique employed by artists was just a means of expression. I see all of them as weapons in an arsenal for dialogue and expression. When a new idea that interests me and needs to be expressed comes to mind I search for whatever technique, medium, style and so on, that best suits expressing the idea. I do believe that in many ways abstraction has been taken as an evasive language and that is precisely what I played with in order to parallel memory and other key elements of this series. There is a similarity between the ephemeral nature of memories, thoughts, and feelings just as abstractions can evoke any of these things without truly being any of these things.
Any artist or thinker who has particularly influenced you?
AM… Joseph Beuys, Marcel Duchamp, Louise Bourgeois, Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Rauschenberg, Nam June Pike, Valie Export, Robert Smithson, Max Ernst , Joseph Kosuth, Frank Stella, John Baldessari , Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Survival Research Laboratories Performance Group, Jean Michael Basquiat, Anselm Kiefer, Matthew Barney, Yoko Hono, there is more but that’s a start.
What significance does art have for someone of your generation? What function would you attribute to your work? Would you define yourself as someone dedicated to formalist experimentation, or do you see your art as more in dialogue with reality, art as a space to provoke conversations about realities that go even beyond art itself?
AM …… Personally the significance of art to someone of my generation is a question I can’t answer but I’m sure historians will. While anyone born into this world will be in some way a person of their time, I don’t think I am a very good reflection of what might be a common denominator. Objectively I do not know what it is to be someone of my generation. I feel that artists have always played the role of an outsider who dips his toes into society. A member of his own village as Tom Wolfe puts it. I would never be nor could I be a member of society. While my work is deeply rooted in protesting or bringing light to real problems of our day and age its higher goal is an intellectual pursuit to conceptually further art itself. In my hands, art has taken up many uses including formalist, conceptual and social dialogs. These are in reference to the world around me or art itself but in essence I can’t stop myself from making art. I can only hope that my frustrations which led me to study a particular issue can help the world around me. More than that I’d like to contribute to my field by improving the conditions of our village that has been alienated ever since the cave man’s age.
Although this exhibition showed paintings, have you been experimenting with installations as well? Tell me about that part of your work.
AM…… As the need to express more complicated ideas on the subject of violence arose, I concluded that a better solution to the dilemma of expression is the use of installation and potentially video or sound art, as opposed to just paint. I’d say that every change or progression of my visual language in my work is a solution to a problem in transmitting particular ideas.
Have you started any new series? Tentatively, where do you see your work in the next five years? I know you are about to finish your studies at Florida International University, any plans for postgraduate studies in Fine Arts?
AM… I already have new series ideas in mind, focused more on intellectual pursuits in the field of art rather than a concrete social issue. In the next five years I’d like to make something new for others to experience. Within the year I’ll have finished two bachelor’s degree programs and will take an entire year to produce work before considering graduate school. However, graduate school is something I will be pursuing without a question.
Adrian Menéndez was born in Madrid, Spain to Cuban parents. He has been raised and educated in Miami, Florida where he currently lives and works. His work has been exhibited at the Museum Quinta De Santiago, Concrete Space, Doral; The Kendall Art Center, Kendall; and Jacki Hinchey Gallery, New York, among others. He is currently in several collections Boti Llanes, the Cuban Art Alliance, Rodriguez Collection, Ricardo Pau-Llosa, and the Lisa and Arturo Mosquera Collection.
Jorge M. Perez Art Collection