Chicago artist Candida Alvarez’s “Estoy Bien” is her first exhibition at Monique Meloche. The series of new abstract paintings is displayed in standalone aluminum frames arranged on the gallery floor, exploring the relationship between color, light and architectural elements. The proofs used for the exhibition originated from the 2017 Chicago Riverwalk “Year of Public Art” program.
The short but strong title speaks of both the passing of Alvarez’s father and the destruction Hurricane Maria brought to Puerto Rico, where her parents originated. The imagery is a direct result of the world around Alvarez, creating a fantasy-like state flowing between reality and euphoria.
Hovering above the ground, each image elevates the viewer from conventional gallery walks; the duality of life and thought is transparent in the dual-sided paintings.
The light that comes through the PVC mesh material the artist uses as a canvas enhances the two-dimensional nature of the images, creating strong, intricate shadows and highlights and making the space fluid. The mesh material breaks the traditional boundaries of paintings. The bold use of color is direct and purposeful, drawing the viewer closer, and recalls Puerto Rican imagery. The bold blues and bright red hues are direct symbols of the landscape pre- and post-Hurricane Maria, the richness of the colors speaking to the tragedy and beauty that exists in one moment.
The proximity between each painting brings the spectator into a world adorned with texture, emotion, intimacy. The mesh nature of each painting allows us to see almost every corner of the gallery. The transparency in the material is similar to the social issues that Alvarez depicts. She makes it clear that the social and economic issues in Puerto Rico are as relevant and apparent as the materials she integrates into this show.
The images create their own spaces, taking life beyond the walls of the gallery, Alvarez transports you to her Puerto Rico, seeing through her eyes but with question and curiosity. The scenery depicted originates from ordinary events that were nonetheless pivotal to the artist. Your attention is entrapped in the normalcy of a familiar place; the images are similar to the ones on the news, of places often overlooked. The visual experiences that we take for granted are capitalized on throughout “Estoy Bien”; similar to the title, the word “fine” is indicative of outsiders looking in, fine, until further context is given. Our view on not only Alvarez’s work but worldly issues that often don’t have an impact on us directly is questioned. In her artistic process, the artist uses her iPhone to capture details, similar to how many of us capture moments that we will not get back. A perspective that we so often take for granted is defined in a large-scale portrait, inviting us into the moment.
“Estoy Bien” questions the viewer rather than tells; the nature of the space, the images, the title interrogates the viewer’s state of “fine” and redefines the perspective that we use throughout our day-to-day life. (Caira Moreira-Brown)
“Estoy Bien” is on view at Monique Meloche, 451 North Paulina, through March 21.