Arturo Herrera was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1959, and lives and works in New York and Berlin, Germany. His practice involves taking familiar imagery, often sourced from popular culture, and deconstructing it, only to recombine it with references from modernist abstraction and surrealism. These fragments, reconfigured by the artist through densely layered cut, painted and printed paper, result in rich and abstract hybrids. Well-known cartoon motifs such as castles are meticulously dissected to the point where they become barely recognisable. We asked him about his work, 'Get it Right (Green)', and his current projects.
The relationship between a modernist ideal and the source from which is taken creates an immediate point of entry for the viewer. The uprooted, reworked shape proposes an uncanny familiarity with multiple readings.
Your donation to Ikon gallery for its auction was ‘Get it Right (Green)’, a work of acrylic on canvas. Can you tell us about your relationship with Ikon?
I was invited by Nigel Prince to do an exhibition at IKON. From beginning to end I have nothing but praise for Nigel, Jonathan and the rest of the staff. It is an amazingly professional institution with an incredible history. I was proud to be part of the 2007 exhibition programming. To this day I am still in contact with Nigel and Jonathan. That happens rarely with other institutions.
Where did the inspiration for the design come from?
The piece Get It Right from 2005 is based on my practice where fragments from popular culture – in this case a character from a coloring book – is abstracted to become a different entity. The relationship between a modernist ideal and the source from which is taken creates an immediate point of entry for the viewer. The uprooted, reworked shape proposes an uncanny familiarity with multiple readings.
How does a piece of your work come to its final state, complete and ready for exhibition? Can you talk us through the thought process?
An initial attraction to a fragment from any source of printed matter such as illustrations, newspapers, advertisements, comics and posters will trigger an idea towards further simplification to complicate the reading and create a dialogue with its initial set of references. How far can I take a fragment so I can make a work of art and give it another meaning?
How much does each work of yours follow on from the last? Do you consider them a series, or is each unique and separate?
Series are very important for me as they bring together works in surprising combinations. The associative linking allows for a more complex connection among works. Get It Right belongs to a group of monochromatic painted cut-paper collages where the shapes recall early modern attempts at biomorphic abstraction. Dissected from their original sources the forms play with a fragmented language which is never direct inviting the viewer to a non linear narrative.
An initial attraction to a fragment from any source of printed matter such as illustrations, newspapers, advertisements, comics and posters will trigger an idea towards further simplification to complicate the reading and create a dialogue with its initial set of references.
What is your favourite medium/material to work with?
I have been working with paper for almost two decades already. Collage is a relatively recent practice created only at the beginning of the 20th century. The potential of collage and paper in the art world continues to be further explored today by so many artists and the results are truly amazing.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am now working directly on canvas with acrylic and oil painting. By layering and combining different materials I want to see what else collage can be. It is an exciting time and I am looking forward to what that will bring.