For more than a decade, Adam Štech has been on a mission to amplify the canonical art beauty through deconstruction and development of deviant dichotomy It’s the paintings we see in art history books, in auction headlines, and in major institutional collections, that the Czech painter is looking at with admiration and an urge to tear them apart and rebuild, often by synthesizing Cubism and realism. And such a mix of respect and mockery, of appreciation of the old and thirst for the new, fuels the exhaustive practice comprising drawing, collage, painting, mosaic, and sculpture, techniques that sometimes work together on getting the best out of a convincing motif or a composition. “I think the basic iconic, canonical exact image is kind of dead,” Štech states with great respect for painterly tradition while talking about the influence of masterpieces on his practice. Such a definite attitude removes the pressure of having to fill the shoes of Picasso, Condo, Goya, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Velazquez, Delacroix, Van Gogh, Beckman, Dix, Neel, etc, and allows for much more unconcerned, spontaneous approach. This is why he often starts with very personal subjects such as his wife, children, or self- portraits, and develops the work further based on particular interests and affinities, choosing subjects like a pop artist – making the Judy Garland mosaic (Judy, 2022), after watching Wizard of Oz with the family or painting Willem Dafoe as Jesus from Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (Willem Dafoe as Jesus, 2022). This particular motif then led to the portrait of Basquiat and Madonna (Basquiat and Madonna, 2022) since Dafoe played in the movie about the celebrated artist, who was also known for paying tribute to another favorite – Picasso (Picasso and Picasso and Theresa, both 2022). And from there, the list continues with Anothony Hopkins who played Picasso, or more personal heroes like Slavoj Žižek or Michel Houellebecq. Informed by books, movies, biopics, etc. In the end, both the focus on his family and the unusual context of the subject selection process places Štech outside of the box in which contemporary artists tend to operate. The unorthodox way of operating is certainly a quality that he is holding onto dearly, habitually stepping off the beaten path of tradition to discover new ways of dealing with the intriguing elements of his practice. “I perceive Cubism as a breakthrough in visualizing, almost at the level of discovering linear perspective,” the artist mentions when explaining the influence of the iconic avant-garde art movement. And this sincere appreciation seeps into all layers of his creative process, from the overlaying or collaging drawings in the preparatory phase, resorting to Cubism-founded approaches in painting or applying them to realistic sculpture, all the way to employing cube-based mosaic technique or using the cube-defying circles to distort the image. On top of that, a strong motif might get reworked multiple times as a drawing, explored with different color combinations or scales on a canvas, or put to test beyond the surface of the paper or canvas. All in an effort to examine the fascinating way in which technique and the formal elements influence the relationship with the motif, especially when broken into particles. Particles as small as tiny tiles used in mosaics or bigger circular peepholes prompted by Viktor Pivovarov’s vistas (Circles – Picasso and Catherine and Circles – Korean girl, both 2022). And while mosaics celebrate the classics while confronting the communism-imposed taboos, the other one is challenging the viewer to a perception game while placing them in a voyeur role with a cheeky choice of motifs. Much like Cubism itself constructed new realities and moved from traditional ideas of representation toward abstraction, Štech is putting the abstraction of the circle in the first plan and the realistic depiction of the scene in the shuffled, back seat. Similarly, the paradoxical combination of Cubist stylization and the descriptiveness and realism of the material is at the core of his sculptural oeuvre through which the said contrasts bring the subject “to life” (Picasso and Gorilla, both 2022). The distinctive approach of showing multidimensionality on a flat surface is applied to an actually multidimensional object, creating both a paradox and a great starting point for further subversions. Honoring simplicity, precision, and refinement of both his concepts as well as the technical qualities of the work, while staying grounded in the earthly sphere and not striding into fantasy, Štech is continuing to build on the conflict of approaches as a way of conveying the polarized, paradoxical nature of human personality. – Saša Bogojev  

Artworks

   

Installation views

Ascaso Gallery is pleased to announce three concurrent solo exhibitions on separate stories of its Caracas gallery, featuring the work of three artists who employ allusions to pop culture to delve into our psychological landscapes: Arturo Correa, Javier Martin, and Noritoshi Mitsuuchi. Liminal Labyrinths unveils new work by Arturo Correa, a Venezuelan-American painter who interweaves abstract and cross-cultural imagery to invoke psychological transformations. Born in Valencia in 1967, he grew up inspired by the open-ended debates of his parents, a surgeon and a psychologist, on health and human behavior. After moving to the United States at 21 to study art, he earned an MA in Studio Art from NYU. Devastated by 9/11, which catalyzed a profound shift in his work, he left the city behind and eventually settled in Naples, Florida. Evolving constantly, his approach sprang first from his roots in Venezuelan and pre-Columbian culture, and later absorbed the influence of post-modernists like Basquiat and David Salle. His current work is a progression of an earlier series, Enredaderas – expressionistic canvases crowded with twisted vines ¬– reimagined as clean, colorful shapes reminiscent of subway maps or mazes. In some of these large acrylic canvases, his energetic gestures stand unadorned, suggesting orchestral movements building upon each other. In others, cartoon characters pursue mysterious missions in this labyrinthine environment, while ghostly doodles float in the background like half-formed ideas waiting to express themselves. The references to childhood lend wit and playfulness to the abstract forms, but also a certain nostalgia. Correa believes art has the power to heal the spirit, suggesting that “every day we are on a mission to find ourselves.” He has held 22 solo exhibitions in Venezuela and the US, and his work is in the permanent collections of numerous museums and institutions. Skin Deep is a collection of work by in Javier Martin, a Miami-based multidisciplinary artist who proposes visual metaphors via collage, painting, sculpture, video and performance art. Born in 1985 in the Spanish city of Ceuta on the northern tip of Africa, immersed in a vibrant mix of cultures, he began painting at the age of 7 and exhibited at a local museum just two years later. Deliberately avoiding formal art training, he developed his own approach, drawing inspiration from Picasso and conceptual art satirist Maurizio Cattelan, and showed at art fairs in Lisbon, Madrid and Paris before the age of 20. With this body of work, he explores the theme of “blindness” by obscuring his glamorous subjects’ eyes – the proverbial windows to the soul – proposing that materialism and a focus on superficial appearance blind us to the inner qualities that define each person’s unique beauty. Layering collaged prints of fashion models with swaths of oil, acrylic and spray paint and flourishes of neon, his imagery may appear on the surface to embrace luxury and consumption, but covertly conveys a struggle against conformity. Martin hopes to provoke self-reflection about what’s truly important in life. “We often are blinded by so many different things within our society,” he says. “There is nothing more dangerous than to only focus on the superficial and lose the window to your interior.” His exhibitions include solo shows in New York, Miami, Madrid, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and numerous South Korean venues, among them the Seoul Museum. Cloud Nine presents work by Noritoshi Mitsuuchi, a Japanese painter who takes inspiration from both popular culture and ancient Japanese art forms. Born in Osaka in 1978, he studied at nearby Kobe Design University and began formulating his artistic voice in his mid-twenties, aspiring to attain the raw authenticity of childhood. “The more you try to perfect your art, things that matter will disappear increasingly,” he explains. Working in acrylic on canvas, he evokes characters from Japanese folklore and European fairytales like knights, princesses, dragons, cats and bears, employing them as avatars of his own experiences and emotions. While he asserts that his theme, which he calls “cutism,” is “not nostalgic,” it is influenced by his interest in classic Western and Japanese cartoons, modern manga, advertising, skateboarding, street culture and traditional folk music, as well as artists like Paul Klee and George Condo. Drawn to unfinished, timeworn and comical decorative objects, he borrows from Japanese folk art such as the 12th-century Chōjū-giga (or ‘Animal Caricature’) scrolls, satirical illustrations which depict frolicking rabbits, monkeys and frogs dressed as monks. Likewise, many of his figures perch upon clouds inspired by 11th-century Buddhist sculptures of cloud-borne celestials known as the Unchūkuyō Bosatsu (or ‘Bodhisattvas on Clouds’). Ultimately, Mitsuuchi says he seeks to “stimulate the viewer’s memory and imagination,” drawing together elements that are common between all cultures, bridging the gap between us with a universal language. He has exhibited widely in Japan and recently held solo shows in London, Hong Kong and Taipei.   Installation views Sala 1 NORI 2 NORI 3 1 nori 4 1 1 Nori 1 1   Sala 2 Sala 3  

Artworks

The mysterious daydreams of Carmelo Niño Exhibition at Ascaso Gallery, Miami. Carmelo Niño, a Venezuelan artist originally from Maracaibo, Zulia State, an oil-producing region of Venezuela, is today one of the most outstanding painters in the plastic arts landscape in the country. Many years have passed since his birth in 1951 to the present, when he inaugurates this August 2022, a major exhibition at the Ascaso Gallery in Miami, with paintings from different dates resulting from the permanent and daily work of reflection, physical and intellectual, that he has always pursued in his creative life. Without neglecting a single moment of day-to-day life to be in front of the medium-sized canvas on the easel or of larger canvas hanging on a wall, he works in his large studio in the area of El Junco, outside the capital city of Caracas, surrounded by lush green vegetation, with a wonderful climate of pleasant temperature and poetic mist that invites to the reverie and glorification of his life as a painter. From a very early age Niño and his family discovered his vocation for drawing, a discipline in which he showed a special disposition and talent. From this moment on he dedicates his life to art, to the practice of painting, starting from a fantastic and strange world of fantasy, close to surrealism, unfailingly influenced by the circus of fantasy owned by his mother and a musician father. These circumstances will shape the artist’s life. His traces and influences from the beginning will be present in his creative work, especially through the memories of the infinite curiosity to look, touch and be enraptured by the strange furniture and objects from his mother’s circus that he knew were deposited in a room of the house. This universe of fantasy will leave an indelible mark on his subconscious and will serve as the thematic and artistic support for all his work. In an interview conducted by the critic Roberto Montero Castro in 1977, Carmelo Niño states, “the symbols of my painting come from the everyday life”. His life has been one of continuous work and effort. At the age of fifteen he enrolled in the School of Arts of Maracaibo, graduated three years later, 1966, and immediately, with a scholarship, he travelled to Spain, took a few courses at the San Fernando Academy in Madrid, strengthened his preparation in art workshops and in frequent visits to the big museums of this European capital. With a sensitive gaze he penetrates the mysteries of masterpieces of the great artists who have made the universal history of art. His life as a painter has been intense, of intense study, preparation and work. With much composure and modesty he talks about his life and his artistic production, recognized not only in Venezuela, but also internationally. His participation in exhibitions began in 1969 and as early as 1970 he held his first individual exhibition at the Fine Arts Center of Maracaibo. From these dates onwards successes started to come, with the participation in collective and individual exhibitions, in Venezuela and abroad, as well as the awards from 1971, when he won the Scholarship Award at the First National Salon of Young Artists in Maracay, Aragua State; in 1972 he was awarded the Second Prize at the Regional Salon of Maracaibo. 1975 is the year of awards, he received the First Prize at the IV Salon of Young Artists in Caracas; the Aurelio Rodriguez Award at the IV Avellan Salon in Caracas and the First Prize at the Salon of Young Zulian Artists in Maracaibo; he also participated in the group exhibition of History of Painting in Venezuela, at Casa de Las Americas, Havana, Cuba; and in 1976 he was invited by Jose Gomez Sicre to take part in the exhibition of Venezuelan painting at the Museum of Latin American Art of the OAS. But his recognition came in 1977 when he had his first solo exhibition in Caracas, at the prestigious National Art Gallery- a national museum dedicated only to Venezuelan art, where he was invited as a young talent, three distinguished critics of the country dedicated texts on the artist’s work: Juan Calzadilla, Roberto Montero Castro and Sergio Antillano; and in 1981 when he received the First Prize in Painting at the First National Salon of Young Artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas. His paintings have been shown at the Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil and at the Venice Biennial. And so the achievements of this artist have continued until this outstanding exhibition at the Ascaso Gallery in Miami, 2022. Since the beginning of his career as a painter, Carmelo Niño has been a figurative artist, always obsessed with almost mythological, timeless and absent characters that he encloses in architectural modules or places them in dreamlike landscapes where they are an integral part of that landscape. Without straying from the traced route, he continues his work in the silence of his studio surrounded by canvases, brushes, paint tubes and through large windows he enjoys the beautiful Dionysian landscape that surrounds him and delights the spirit. Bélgica Rodríguez, PhD Art critic and researcher Specialist in Latin American art.  

Artworks

   

Installation views

 
Ascaso Gallery is pleased to announce Catalytic Confections, a two-person exhibition of work by painters Adam Handler and Ms. Dyu, opening August 4th. The juxtaposition of these bodies of work creates a dialogue between two artists mining veins of whimsy and personal philosophy in strikingly different ways. Raised in Queens, now working in nearby Armonk, Adam Handler discovered his artistic spark as a child in his grandparents’ New York framing factory. Surrounded with paintings by the likes of Chagall, de Kooning, Basquiat and Haring, Handler began emulating his favorites as a teen, and later focused his own creative voice by studying life drawing in Italy and earning a BA in art history, aiming to avoid the strictures of fine art education and retain the sensibility of “an outsider, but an informed outsider.” Employing candy-colored acrylics and the childlike scrawl of oil stick, often working in monumental scale, he strives to channel the raw, confident energy of innocence. In pairing sweet imagery of girls, flowers and friendly ghosts with “sinister entities” like bats, ghouls and UFOs, he confronts his own trepidation about the transience of life by enveloping it in joyful exuberance, ultimately seeking to catalyze an emotional reaction in the viewer. Handler counts a lack of perfection among his most precious tools. “It’s hard to be simple,” he says. “It’s one of the hardest things – to stop.” His exhibitions include major art fairs and solo shows in New York, London, Paris, Seoul and Taipei. Brought up in a Russian seaside town, now living in Dubai, Ms.Dyu began painting in her teens, and honed her craft while earning a BFA in design and an interdisciplinary MLA. Her early career in 3D modeling may contribute a cartoonish aspect to these oil paintings, in which colossal female figures, often split or twinned, crowd the frame as if confined within it, peering out with mischievous or searching expressions. Though nude, Dyu’s giantesses convey no sexuality – rather, their distorted bodies suggest a conflict between women’s desires and societal expectations. Set in minimalist seascapes afloat with tiny clouds like swirls of vanilla frosting, they summon echoes of Picasso’s surrealist-period paintings of women at the beach; but whereas Picasso’s women are merely observed, Dyu’s are the observer. They glance at us sharply through veils of hair reminiscent of the Muslim niqāb, their gaze narrowed by eyelids depicted, in stark contrast to their curvaceous surroundings, as trompe l’oeil rectangles floating over the surface of the canvas like shutters poised to slam shut. From within two notoriously male-dominated cultures, Ms.Dyu provokes questions about feminine agency, pulling women’s dreams and society’s ulterior motives into the spotlight. Her recent exhibitions include shows in New York, Paris, Dubai, China and Japan. Amanda Erlanson, Art Essayist  

Adam Handler

 

Ms. Dyu

Ascaso Gallery is pleased to announce Reviver, a solo exhibition of work by Los Angeles artist Andrew Hem, opening June 30th. Known for his unearthly color aesthetic and a singular approach to portraiture, Hem weaves emotional narratives around figures inhabiting breathtaking landscapes and twilight cityscapes, employing these settings to convey states such as wonder, resilience and interconnectedness, and on the other hand, guilt, turmoil and alienation. This body of work is a reflection on Hem’s transition into fatherhood, and the conflicts and traumas he experienced in his youth that he hopes to avert in his son’s future. In Hem’s work, levitation represents changing the path, choosing a different direction from the one society expects of us, and reflections — mirrored in the water, shimmering on shiny fabric, gleaming on wet pavement — suggest that everything that happens around us has an influence on us that can resonate onto future generations, unless we consciously sidestep the mistakes of history. Reflections also give hints about the figure’s inner life — one pair of mirrored figures has only a single reflection, another reflection meets your eye while its source remains introspective, and a third subject throws a distorted reflection, implying inner demons. Growing up in a tough neighborhood where he and his family were the only Asians, Hem remembers feeling an overwhelming sense of isolation as a child. Since the only representation of people like himself he saw in popular culture was in anime and martial arts films, he embraces those aesthetics, but re-envisions them as an inclusive milieu where men of all races are seen as creative, thoughtful and vulnerable, and women are described not as passive aesthetic objects, but as wonderers, adventurers and warriors. Mindful that his own son never experiences that cultural isolation, Hem continually strives in his work to conjure a world that doesn’t yet exist, where no one is an outcast and everyone, no matter how different they are, is accepted. Amanda Erlanson, Art Essayist

About the Artist:

Born during his parents’ flight from Cambodia in the wake of the Khmer Rouge genocide, Andrew Hem grew up poised in the balance between two cultures — the rural animistic society of his Khmer ancestors, and the dynamic urban arts of the tough Los Angeles neighborhood where his family eventually came to rest. He received his BFA from Art College Center of Design, and went on to have solo exhibitions in Los Angeles, New York, London and Paris. His public art commissions include a courthouse mural and a medical center mosaic for the Los Angeles County Department of Arts & Culture, and mural installations in the Oakland Museum of California, the Worcester Art Museum, and the Japanese American National Museum.         Becoming Water, 2022. Acrylic on linen. 48.5 x 31 in. | 123.1 x 78.7 cm
Ascaso Gallery, in association with ASFA (Axel Stein Fine Arts) is pleased to invite you to the exhibition of seven paintings from a prestigious Private Collection, New York. When the book Una visión, una colección, una mujer was published at the end of 2021, ASFA’s next project was to exhibit a selected group of paintings for the book presentation in Miami. Ascaso Gallery is extremely proud to open its space for this rather important cultural event. The main focus of ASFA’s editorial initiative was to illustrate the multifaceted characterization of women as muses, mothers and social actors in this particularly interesting collection of [mostly] Venezuelan art. Although a selected number of paintings are on view in our galleries today, the overall quality of each of these works is undeniable and deserves the visitor’s attention.

Arturo Michelena (1863-1898)

Niño enfermo (Sick Child). Gold Medal at the French Artists Salon, 1887, Paris At the time of Arturo Michelena’s Centennial exhibition at the National Gallery in Caracas, Venezuela (1998), two of the artist’s most important paintings, Niño enfermo and Una visita electoral were missing from the checklist. No one had seen the paintings nor knew of their whereabouts. In 2003, after much research, these two famous paintings were found in the storage room of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, and on the main stairway landing of a general store in Vevey, Switzerland. This is the first time that Niño enfermo, and its companion painting are exhibited for the general public to enjoy.
‘ENFANT MALADE (Niño enfermo)’ ,1887, de Michelena, Arturo (1863­-1898), óleo sobre lienzo, 74 3/4 x 79 pulgadas.

Niño enfermo, 1887

Michelena Arturo. Visita electoral copia

Una visita electoral, 1886

Armando Reverón (1889-1954)

Two legendary paintings: La cueva, 1920 and La maja criolla, 1939 from the Alfredo Boulton´s collection Armando Reverón has been too easily categorized as a post-impressionist painter. The truth is that his work defies such generalities. La cueva, 1920 is a mysterious painting from his early mature years. Almost like in a vision, two reclined women appear in the darkness of a cave. Their blurry contours suggest an uncertain vanishing presence. Reverón, most certainly influenced by Goya during his Madrid years in the 1910’s, developed a fascinating body of work around the female figure and the nude. La maja criolla, 1939, ends the cycle of this enigmatic series. These two paintings, formerly in the collection of Armando Reverón’s historiographer, don Alfredo Boulton were last seen by the American public in the artist’s retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2007.
‘LA CUEVA’, 1920, de Armando Reverón (1889­1954), óleo sobre lienzo, 39 3/8 x 60 5/8 pulgadas.

La cueva, 1920

‘LA MAJA criolla’, 1939, de Armando Reverón (1889­1954), óleo sobre arpillera (burlap), 52 3/4 x 69 1/4 pulgadas.

La maja criolla, 1939

Héctor Poleo (1918-1989)

La Carta, 1943, Viudas de la Guerra, 1948, Maternidad, 1943 After his formative years at the Academia de Bellas Artes in Caracas, Héctor Poleo became interested in the work of Diego Rivera and Mexican muralism. After his sojourn in Mexico, Poleo traveled to New York and continued to Italy. La carta, 1943 is perhaps one of his most enigmatic works with a myriad of cultural references with subtle metaphysical undertones. Poleo was deeply concerned about the disasters caused by World War II. As in this Widows of war, 1948, he often vividly described the continuation of the human suffering after the conflicts on the terrain subsided. Poleo is considered by the critics as the last master of the Venezuelan school of Realism.   Una visión, una colección, una mujer By : Editorial El Cardón, NY Will be on sale in the gallery. Funds collected will be 100% donated to the Art Scholarship Program of the Venezuelan American Endowment for the Arts, NY. (VAEARTS.ORG)