PEOPLE OF COLOR series
RAD in Kindergarten
Originally from Los Angeles, RAD is an artist and educator based in Harlem, New York. He’s been teaching art to children since he graduated with a major in Fine Arts and a minor in Art Education from The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.
RAD creates paintings, collages, murals, printmaking, digital and mixed-media pieces which aims to stay true to the spirit and vitality of one’s youth. It’s an ethos that is exemplified in his character Forever Young, a walking LEGO minifigure wearing a blue suit and briefcase enjoying a dripping pink popsicle.
When children play with toys, their action figures and dolls engage in a dialogue as they attempt to make sense of information gleaned from television, films, intrnet or their family. It’s the earliest form of storytelling, in which their values are being molded. Such storytelling continues when children draw. Narratives form with each line put down on paper. This is what has informed RAD's art.
Having immigrated from Cuba, his mother would watch daytime soap operas to learn English. The characters, plots and world building had an impression on RAD at an early age. He eventually developed the idea of fictitious town of Raddington Falls where his cast of LEGO minifigures would live and carry out an ever changing narrative. The town seems ideal on the outside, yet it has a darkness underneath the surface.
While much of his work is a pastiche of iconography and styles from popular culture, some of his work taps into the political, cynical side of adulthood. It’s these dualities between child-like imagery contextualized through an adult’s point of view, which adds tension and dimensionality to the art work.
"In the Toyland Wars series, there is a war between the green army and the rest of the toys in Toyland. The green army is trying to overthrow the mayor in a military coup. If this were a screenplay, this would be the overriding plot. I think of it as a film’s storyboard, because I grew up in Los Angeles, under the shadow of the entertainment industry.
Toyland is made of distinct neighborhoods where dolls have their own section, building toys have their area, stuffed animals live separately, etc. They keep to themselves, none of them ever interact with each other.
Will the different toys band together for the common cause? It mirrors gender roles in our culture, where boys and girls are expected to play with certain kinds of toys.
The paintings may be considered political allegories, yet this story is not a direct reference to any one regime from history or of today.
The artworks are based on found photographs or ones I have taken of toys I’ve acquired. When I paint, I allow variety of styles to emerge spontaneously.