By Tony Martin
The first thing I should mention is a quote by British artist and Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry: “artists should never be compared to other artists in a review”, something like that.
But I can’t help comparing the latest paintings by Angel Matamoros to the late Richard Diebenkorn, West Coast’s most revered artist.
In his day job, Matamoros is an award-winning graphic designer who has worked for major newspapers and design houses. Away from work, he’s an abstract expressionist painter represented by galleries in Louisiana and Texas.
Angel's excellent sense of design and colour comes through. I too am a former graphic designer turned painter, so I recognize where Matamoros is coming from.
My reference to Diebenkorn is to offer an opportunity to check him out online. He is a perfect example of what abstract expressionism is all about and it’s a North American phenomenon. Abstract Expressionism is a post-World War ll art movement in American painting, developed in New York in the 1940s. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence and put New York City at the centre of the western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris.
While Diebenkorn and Paul Klee, among others, have influenced his work, Matamoros is also inspired by artists from his native Costa Rica, such as Rafael Angel Garcia and Francisco Zuniga. The abstracts by Matamoros take snippets of text from poems that he loves, and combines them with heavy, textural colors and forms.
Matamoros has left print media to work as the principal graphic designer at Hazen and Sawyer in San Diego, a group of environmental engineers and scientists. About his painting, he says: “I am drawn to surfaces, the power of colour, texture and energetic gestures. My work disassembles and re-arranges images inspired by places I have a special connection with, poems, books I’ve read as well as nature. While I give the paintings titles, it’s my hope that people will connect with the art in reflection of their own story.”
You may view his paintings at www.angelmatamoros.com or check out Saatchi Gallery’s web site.
interview, September 18, 2012
Let us introduce you to Featured Artist, Angel Matamoros – painter.
Furies Magazine: Do you force yourself to work without inspiration or do you wait until you’re inspired?
Angel Matamoros: I used to wait until I was inspired and I thought that was the way it had to be. These days I try to paint on schedule. I guess that comes from my years in commercial art, and it becomes real important when I have a gallery opening coming up. I’ll prepare 16 canvases or 12 to 20 boards in one shot. Then, they’re all primed, gessoed and waiting for me… very hard to resist!
FM: How did you go from commercial art to the type of art you’re doing now?
AM: I actually started out painting in college. Then thought I wanted to be an architect, then veered towards commercial art. I painted all along but didn’t get real serious about it until about 12 years ago. To me, all imagery communicates. And if a fine artist absolutely has to have a day job at some point…at least commercial art is still art!
FM: Is there a particular theme that you like to return to a lot?
AM: There are a few; I like to mentally revisit places from my youth (I was born in Costa Rica), or historical landscapes from my ancestry. Sometimes my visual direction comes from music I hear or books and poems I’m reading. I’m sort of all over the place, but those are areas I find myself going back to over and over.
FM: What types of music do you listen to when painting or prepping?
AM: Almost always jazz, traditional and modern. If the painting is inspired by history then I crank up the classical pieces (esp. Spanish or Italian baroque). There are times when I’m in the studio and I have techno cranked and other times I paint in silence. I identify my mood and run with it.
FM: What is your work space like?
AM: I’ve always loved my studio spaces. I recently had a separate studio in downtown Minden, Louisiana, but now we’ve moved to Texas and I’m setting up my studio at home. I surround myself by bookcases, several easels, drawing tables and a large floor space. For me the studio has to be a place you don’t mind going to at 3am when the mood strikes. Other artists will agree, even if you have an overwhelming amount of work ahead of you, the studio is an unbelievable place full of energy and possibilities.
FM: Who is your favorite artist?
AM: From the recent past: Picasso, Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler and Barnett Newman.
Living artists: Pamela Masik, Dale Witherow and Anita Kunz. There are so many more I could list.
Calling Gallery Madera’s latest exhibit “Apophenia” is fitting, as the dual showcase of artists conjures the definition of the term in its viewers.
While walking through the series of paintings in the industrial-grade gallery, the viewer is forced to make connections in the work of two very different painters.
Dale Witherow and Angel (Fred) Matamoros feature two very distinctive styles, but the connection to the human spirit as well as mother earth comes through in full force in all of their works.
Witherow bounces between levels of abstractions, but always portrays his strong connection to human and natural life.
Using a more muted, peaceful pallet than Matamoros, Witherow evokes feelings of contentment, pleasure and serenity in most of his pieces.
In his gold-flecked landscape “Lakeside,” the viewer is sitting atop a hill, or a deck near a lake, peering through the sparsely dressed trees, relaxed and sedate at sunset. With the purplish mountain range in the background it could represent almost any fresh-water body in the Northwest.
A similar feeling comes through in “Golden Forrest Sketch,” as the viewer feels as though they are in the midst of a warm-hued clearing in an abstract forest.
In his paintings “Amarillo” and “Boundaries,” the human form comes through in these minimal abstractions that are largely bathed in one, soft hue. He continues to exude peace and contentment through his use of subdued colors, and the relaxed, feminine forms that he draws, especially in “Amarillo.” A partial outline of a woman sitting on the ground, and working on something like a basket, is a quiet scene, and continues Witherow’s connection to nature. It feels as though the figure is at one with her surroundings, and the nature of her silhouette has a strong Native American feel.
Contrast the mellow tones and feelings coming from Witherow’s brush with the vibrant, high-energy pieces of Matamoros, and “Apophenia” reveals all sides of nature - the serene and the fierce.
While Witherow’s still-lifes of recognizable images show the viewer familiar and soothing scenes, Matamoros’ splashes of colors and texture represent a completely different side of nature.
Matamoros’ work is minimal in the form department, but his use of rich colors, layers, scratches and mixed media to add texture create a tangible level of energy and connection for the viewer.
His piece “El Rincon de la Vieja” captures the heat and intensity of Costa Rica’s volcanic hotspot for which the painting is named. Using only varying shades of red and cuts for texture, Matamoros’ representation of the soot, light and heat of a volcanic eruption is impeccable.
Doing a similar color study in blue on a much larger scale in “Aguas Bravas,” the blending of shades and added texture beneath the paint creates a stunning impression of blurrily peering through water. It is an overwhelming representation the element’s power over the earth, and the individual.
Those two pieces are Matamoros’ most impressive works at Gallery Madera because of the intense feeling conveyed through such minimalism. Other works where text and painted lines are incorporated do not appear to be as strong.
View “Apophenia,” the works of Dale Witherow and Angel Matamoros, through Sept. 27 at Gallery Madera, 2210 Court ‘A’. For more information, call (253) 572-1218 or visit www.Gallerymadera.com.
Angel Matamoros is a painter, and spends his days as a graphic designer. Born in Costa Rica, Matamoros made his way to Washington via Southern California. This aspect of his life story clearly shows in the earth-centric and deeply warm nature that effortlessly emanates from his paintings.
Matamoros’ paintings take up an entire wall in the show, and this privilege is one that is definitely well earned. Three particular smaller pieces, “La Boca Del Pobre,” “Sobra La Ruina” and “Turrialba,” all share Spanish titles that when translated infer impressions of destruction and injustice, and can most likely be attributed to Matamoros’ home country. “La Boca Del Pobre” contains a gaping black void toward the bottom right-hand corner, and is dominated by deep red tones, highlighted by strong cuts and angles that are the effect of layers of paint and other media hidden underneath.
“Sobra La Ruina” contains a large blue spherical shape that takes up most of the scene. A red atmospheric background cowers behind the orb, while a box-shaped sun hangs high in the distance. The piece’s title is collaged into the painting, and the scraping and pushing of paint on canvas are clearly visible to the viewer’s eye. These techniques give a depth and darker quality to this already apocalyptic piece. “Turrialba” is the most minimal in technique of the three. It is nearly all purple, save for the golden yellow line surrounding a mount-like shape – named after the famous Costa Rican volcano. It is entirely simplistic, and gives viewers the opportunity to interpret the meaning of the piece and to make connections to the world through it.
Fine Art America
The articulated surfaces in Angel Matamoros’ painting, “Rue St. Philip” suggest the slate, stucco, and weathered wood of Creole cottages in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Subtly delineated color fields are plumb and square, perhaps doors and shutters. A humid mist of diffuse sunlight implies cool shade behind the picture plane. The faint borderline between the burnt orange and amber compels my eye. Its left-hand turn adds counterbalance to the vertical dominance, giving the colorful forms a new sense of direction and magnitude beyond the proportions of the canvas. Such minimalism requires nuance, gesture, and a mathematically precise intuition. Matamoros has all of those bases covered.
A historic plaque in “Calle D Borbon” plays a formal role in this rectilinear composition, balancing its bright orange vertical counterpart while providing an anchor overall. The semiotics of its text engages the viewer’s cognitive faculties despite the urgency of the fiery orange plume above it.
Ragged flares interlace the edges of the color blocks – not unlike an aerial map of the Louisiana delta – as the orange consumes the rich and fertile darkness. The depth, warmth, and potency of these colors are enhanced by Angel Matamoros’ craftsmanship, evoking a sense of weathered resistance to time in the distressed glaze of the surfaces. The deep pigments disperse colored light, whereas the loud, lively orange radiates its own heat like the celebrated nightlife of the French Quarter that resonates around every corner of this compelling canvas.
Fine Art America
With its warm character distilled from the environs of southern Spain, “Madre Patria I” is as representational as Matamoros gets in this series of paintings. There is a sense of vastness as the eye penetrates the atmospheric depth beyond the sunny golden sidebar in the foreground and the warm cloudy radiance of sky above the horizon line. A regiment of small magenta squares gain pillow-like volume as they rise to extract color from the sky.
These square pills rise above the horizon while floating on the same plane as the golden pillar that holds the picture plumb. That column of light stops just short of the horizon allowing the eye to traverse the entire width of the picture giving the viewer a distinct perspective relative to the vertical markers. The golden back painting visible beneath the scratches and scrawls of the mottled surface, gives a vital translucent frisson to this splendid work.
Angel lends his fine sense of harmony and proportion to the color fields in his paintings. He instills a spiritual essence that persuades even disparate elements, edgy or diffuse, into blissful coexistence.
City Arts Magazine
Color! I am bathed in rich, glorious color as I admire the work of Angel Matamoros. His multimedia paintings have a way of evoking emotions with color, plain and simple. But it is more than that. It’s in the balance of color. Or is it in how he can throw you off-balance? His paintings are grounded; they are of the earth, they are luminous and they draw you in.
Then there are the words (often, it helps if you are bilingual). He frequently layers his colors over printed text.
Matamoros seems unable to escape text, much as Mondrian couldn’t escape the line. He paints when he is not illustrating the pages of our city’s largest newspaper: His award-winning graphic work is seen daily by hundreds of thousands. That work is refined, amazingly detailed and, of course, surrounded by text.
His paintings are his release, free-flowing and expressive. As they likely bring balance to his life, Matamoros’s paintings offer us intriguing settings for reflection.
- Carlos Taylor-Swanson