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Review: Candida Alvarez/Riverside Arts Center

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“puerto rico ? 25796″

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At first, it was just as painful to see all these ornate, delicately colored 9×12-inch sheets of vellum pinned to the gallery walls like butterflies as it was to see body piercings in sensitive places. But eventually, it all made sense: this was Candida Alvarez’s invitation to a world of personal experience. It was like visiting the artist in her kitchen as she tells you about her various experiences in Puerto Rico, Ireland and Chicago. It’s just you and her—other people and things are not depicted, even in the wall full of photographs where everything dissolves into patterns. The patterns of her drawings are especially intense, wonderful and obviously relate to the places to which they refer. To her, Puerto Rico, the land of her parents, feels festive and luxuriant; Ireland feels cool and earthy; and Chicago feels at turns stifling, challenging or exciting. Perhaps she’d rather live somewhere else? Besides these places, it’s the distinct areas of color that really seem to be the focus of Alvarez’s attention. Green is the only color that appears in each and every artwork, and it’s how she identifies this series of miniatures made over the past five years. The drawings seem to document a life whose psychedelic self-absorption is confirmed by a video showing the artist in the garden behind the gallery, spinning dizzily in circles until she collapses on the ground. She’s happy with her life, and it feels good to spend some time with her. But this is only one of her many projects, perhaps just a prelude to her upcoming exhibition of ambitious, large-scale paintings that will be on view at the Hyde Park Art Center in December. (Chris Miller)

Through October 13 at the Riverside Arts Center, 32 East Quincy, Riverside

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