Showing work that lacks even a hint of anger or disgust, this is a painter who does not especially belong in Chicago, and so, indeed, this youthful retrospective marks the end of Angel Otero’s stay in the city where he has spent the last six years as a student at the Art Institute. He’s a very old-school kind of painter—all about nostalgia and beauty and evident craftsmanship. His still-lifes belong in the seventeenth-century, except that he uses materials in such unlikely ways, and his sense of despair feels less cosmic/eternal and more personal/fragile. Even when his still-life escapes the painted surface and pours out onto an actual table, it’s still composed with great care and beauty, although these installations do seem unbearably, even morbidly vulnerable to cobwebs and dust. Like other masters of the Spanish school, he can turn black into a rich, delicious color. “With paint, I want to give a sense of abundance, unbalance, ambition, courage and persistence within form, color and texture in every painting,” he says. Perhaps he’ll end up back in Puerto Rico, like the painter who first inspired him to become an artist, Arnoldo Roche Rabell, who graduated from the Art Institute thirty years ago. But hopefully, this will not be the last time he has a major show in Chicago. From the Union League Club to Kavi Gupta Gallery to the Cultural Center, he certainly has gotten a lot of support here in a short amount of time. (Chris Miller)
Through March 28 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Randolph
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