My work initially took inspiration from my childhood. Lego was my favorite toy as a child and while building with the bricks, I developed the fictitious town of Raddington Falls. The main characters were inspired by the characters on my mother's soap operas, from the mayor to the district attorney to the police chief. I remember coming home from elementary school for lunch (I lived across the street from the school) while the soaps played on the television. Originall from Cuba, watching soaps is how my mother learned to speak Spanish.
I would create Lego dioramas like TV film sets in which characters would act out stories, as children do when they play with toys, their action figures and dolls engage in role-playing dialogue, a reinterpretation of the the values they've seen in the media.
Teaching art to elementary children as an adult has also informed my artwork. I often wonder abour the values being passed on to children today including such issues as diversity, identity, gender and celebrity culture.
Series Within the Series:
LOST & FOUND
Lost & Found is a street art series where 5"x7" pieces of art are left on city streets for people to find - for free! Twenty original, prints, stickers or buttons are left in weather-proof clear packaging, each numbered with a label on the back instructing those who find it with information about posting your find on social media. Art was dropped on eight cities in 2014 including Venice Beach, CA, Philadelphia, PA, Williamsburg Brooklyn, NY, Washington, D.C., New Haven, CT, Toronto, Canada, Providence, RI and DUMBO Brooklyn, NY.
As the media becomes more globally widespread with the internet and monoculture more and more becomes something real, I wonder how much of our identity and cultural diversity do we retain. Each of these images within the series seem identical, yet they were painted individually and therefore are all different. While they were painted to be the same image of a lego minifigure, the hand cannot paint something exactly the same. A series of ten 9"x11" were painted on polypropolyne paper as well as twenty figures on a 4'x5' sheet. In addition, twenty were painted on 5"x7" canvases for the Lost & Found art drop in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York City, USA.
A series of paintings including multiple walking lego business men and still life images of tarot cards, bombs and trophies are juxtaposed on the wall like panels of a comic that can be mixed and matched at any given moment. These wall installations suggest a narrative as a whole, yet one painting alone works just as well. While one of the installations was paintined on polycarbonate plastic sheets, the other is painted on a series of smaller wood panels of various dimensions, rising off the wall in different heights.
Twenty paintings of toy minifigure communtiy workers from a doctor to a police officer to a chef are each painted on individual sheets of 11"x14" polypropolyne paper. Painted with acrylic on watercolor paper gives the effect tahat the paintings are still wet and watery on the smooth surface. While the works takes inspiration from schools taht teach community workers in the classroom, how much of their individual identity is wrapped up in their day job is left unsaid.
#LIVING THE DREAM
These large-scale paintings take a playful look at US culture that both celebrates and critques our current values. Money, fame and sprituality become one in the same or battle it out in a philosophical arena, depending on your point of view. These pieces were painted on human-sized polypropolyne paper using acrylics, giving the appearance of wet watercolor gestural marks on the smooth surface.
Game Theory is a collection of drawings within the series “Raddington Falls: Child's Play”. Colored pencil illustrations of board games and video games are combined with toy figures in candy colored landscapes. Game iconography is layered over mandala compositions, suggesting a new form of meditation.
This body of work is heavily inspired from years of teaching art to children. The use of colored pencil harkens to the fact that video games, board games and toys all had their start with a pencil sketch on paper.
The drawings reflect the values of our culture, filtered to children and adults alike through the games and toys they play. Several of the drawings exhibit obvious influences of popular toys, while others conjure ideas of new forms of game play. Prints on Sale. http://society6.com/RaddingtonFalls
It's been said that if you want to know a culture, look at their advertising. A society's values and priorities are clearly exhibited in the print ads and commercials: the products that those ads are selling, and more importantly, how they are sold. The imagery they use reflects the societal norms and ills such as sexism, materialism and celebrity idolatry. Plastic toy heads pasted over the faces on subway platform advertisements suggests the cloning of the values we are selling to the next generation.
BLOOD RED SERIES
These drawings explore different themes within the context of the Raddington Falls series. New and recurring imagery is experimented with as a means of deciphering whether they will be developed into further work. The drawings share a stylistic similarity in that black, white and grey colored pencils are combined with red paint.
The Currency Drawings are a series within the series “Raddington Falls: Child's Play” concerning value systems passed down from adult to child - in this case, how we value money. The Currency Drawings were inspired by imagery on the front and back of the United States Dollar. The artist combined his own symbolism and hidden imagery with that of the dollar bill's masonic symbolism. They are numbered in the order that they were drawn with an olive green, celadon green, french grey, cool grey, black and white colored pencils. Proverbs and common cliches such as “Money doesn't grow on trees”, “Time is Money” and “Climbing the Ladder of Success” also served as inspiration.
This wall installation combines photography with stickers of drawings. It is part of the series “Raddington Falls: Child's Play” which focuses on the values taught to children and how they uphold these values through the act of playing with toys. The center of this piece is a family photograph of Lego figures, capturing a moment in a narration. Family tension is heightened as one of its members is missing, or as the title suggests, in exile.
Exile, a window installation in Williamsburg Brooklyn, is a collection of hanging polycarbonate plastic sheets transformed into an assortment of shapes. Light passes through the piece creating shadows and illusions, seen from the outside as well as in. An image of a walking Lego figure is repeated throughout, in a series of events like scenes in a graphic novel. The ambiguous narration runs from right to left as the figure passes from one moment to another. New symbolism is introduced, drawing inspiration from board games, fairy tales and from previous work within the series Raddington Falls: Child's Play.
"Toys are a perfect mirror of society, a perfect mirror of the lives people are living at a certain period; and therefore, you look into the history of toys, you are also looking back into the history of mankind."
– Dr. Helmut Schwarz, Toy Museum Director, Nuremberg, Germany