Carlos Estévez / Fireworks curated by Carol Damian
Carlos Estévez "FIREWORKS"
At the beginning of 2016, Carlos Estévez received an artistic residency at the McColl Art Center for the Arts + Innovation in Charlotte, North Carolina. This multidisciplinary space offers artists, among other facilities, ovens for ceramics which caught his attention immediately. In the four months that he spent in the center, he produced more than 200 ceramic works in those ovens. “It’s definitely a charming place, -said Carlos- full of ghosts and spirits that do not rest. From the very beginning, I connected with that energy and it was my source of inspiration through the magic of fire. The ovens and their alchemy took care of the rest to keep me emerged in experimentation throughout the whole residency. The works that I am showing here are the results of that experience.”
The more than 60 ceramic plates that he created are presented now at Kendall Art Center in an exhibition titled “Fireworks.” These elegant, expressive images reveal Estévez’s artistic and emotional universe and explore many of the themes used in his paintings, such as Anatomy, Architectures, Dancers, Moons, Metamorphosis, Demons, Spirits. Several ceramic plates from the Rodríguez Collection and other private collections are also in the exhibition.
Kendall Art Center aims to educate and create an ongoing dialogue with the public in the concepts of contemporary art and its role in society. By presenting, collecting and preserving these significant ceramic achievements of Carlos Estévez, the Center hopes to develop a deeper understanding of cultural values and traditions.
Henry Ballate M.F.A.
The Ceramics of Carlos Estévez
The art of Carlos Estévez reveals a consistent interest in the potential for visualization to examine the link between humanity and the infinity of human experience. He explores notions of symbolism, mythology, time, anatomy, metaphysics and the cosmos in a quest for understanding that transcends the visual to enter the realm of the mind in complex works in different media. He has long investigated the processes used by artists through the centuries that have transformed personal visions into artistic expressions. He follows a long tradition of experimentation with materials that enable him to produce unique works to address new ideas, and re-evaluate those of long-ago. During his career, Estévez has used drawing, painting, sculpture, objects and installations to create a body of work known for its intellectual context and esoteric references to science, philosophy, aesthetics, and alchemy. During a recent residency at the McColl Center for the Arts and Innovation in Charlotte, North Carolina, he had the opportunity to work in a studio with equipment that included ceramic kilns and afforded him freedom to experiment. Located in a historic, neo-Gothic church, the Center itself proved to be inspirational for its connection to a history that could not be ignored. Estévez has long looked to the past for his subject matter and the ability to work in what was once a religious building was particularly interesting and a complimentary environment for his interests in the spiritual and mythological. He had the chance to explore ceramics as the basis for his complex inventory of subjects and advance his skills in the making of a new body of work, quite different from the ceramics he had made in the past, and more complex technically, visually and conceptually.
Most of the ceramics Estévez has created are in the shape of round plates and the circle is a determining factor in their aesthetic production. Other shapes involve the same careful attention to form that is integral to working with the medium. The opportunity to create unique works that differed from the two-dimensional and forced a different focus as he translated his ideas into clay and within a new shape. The integration of flatly drawn images into a circular format is a challenge that he has successfully met with apparent ease, without losing the integrity of his designs. Undoubtedly, his interest in science and alchemy has contributed to this new facet of his artistic career. Today, we recognize that modern ceramics are defined as the art and science of making objects from inorganic, non-metallic materials by the action of heat. It involves the four elements: earth, wind, fire, water. It is a process akin to alchemical transformation with results that range from the perfectly accomplished to the accidents of chemistry and paint in the kiln. Fire is the determining factor. Estévez experiments with ideas of opposition – positives and negatives – as he forms an equilibrium within the perfect shape of a circle.
For this exhibition, Estévez has created works focused on themes of Metamorphosis, Rituals, Medieval Fantasies, and the Faces of Gods and Demons. They celebrate the ceremonies of Native Americans and the mythology of ancient Greece, and in one series, the plates are named for a personality and designed with relational symbolism. His ceramics also move beyond painted and glazed plates that incorporate his meticulously drawn visual vocabulary, replete with references to the cosmos, nature, machines, insects, and the human figure. Now his repertoire expands technically with the addition of new materials, stenciling, and illusionistic geometrics that vie for reality, and occasionally are real holes in the plates. The same complexity that has filled his drawings and paintings takes on a new technical dimension in his ceramics as the firing becomes a transformative element for creative results.
The spirits of Native America are the inspiration for two hand-painted ceramic objects that incorporate hair and feathers to resemble “war bonnets” and add tactile interest and spiritual effects. Spirits are transformed as faces described within the circle of a plate, repeating shapes and other geometric elements energize and activate the objects. The mystery of the Universe, the planets, sun and moon, join an established repertoire. His familiar treatment of fantastic animals, insects, and mechanized creatures that dominates so much of his work over the years, is given new life in this latest form, and he masterfully integrates their shapes into the round borders that never appear to limit their designs. Always fascinated by the human face and what it can reveal about a person, while providing extraordinary opportunities to play with shapes, Estévez repeats its features for references to the moon in one of the most striking series. The phases of the moon provide a dramatic relationship between positives and negatives, darks and lights.
The excitement of experimentation and different sources of inspiration have brought to the work of Carlos Estévez a remarkable repertoire of images transformed by the fire of the kiln. He has found new possibilities for the expansion of his personal lexicon of complex images into ceramic objects that bring them off the flat surface of canvas and paper and enhance their presence within a unique form. The art of ceramics has become one more component in his already outstanding artistic vision.
Carol Damian, Ph.D.