As the only dedicated artist working studio gallery in Northwood, Maximo Caminero’s large scale work is filled with iconography rooted in ancient Taino (first inhabitants of the Antilles) forms that vibrate with Mayan stone carving calendar imagery, 50s Latin abstract expressionism, and some deep spiritual mystery. Most have dark backgrounds with objects that float in space, asking viewers to find the shapes and stories that lie hidden within.
Soft-spoken, the slim, watchful artist/activist has created a comfortable old-world vibe in his raw space, painting the wooden ceiling black with bright geometric shapes, and furnishing the space with well-worn leather couches and brocade chairs. A coffee table full of catalog books about him and his exhibits sits in the middle. Large scale unframed paintings cover the walls, some stapled several rows deep in order to dry. A storage area holds dozens more.
In the back, Caminero has painted slogans on the wall like graffiti about life and love. Statues, hats, books, and framed stories of his exhibits abound. He paints against one large wall, using a rolling chair to move back and forth, playing Latin rhythm soundtracks and stopping to talk to the occasional visitor though Northwood has been quiet for months due to the pandemic. The front of the space facing Northwood Road is all glass, allowing people walking by to see the art and the artist at work.
Maximo Caminero was born in Santo Domingo in 1962. He was always interested in art, choosing to be largely self-taught by immersing himself in art history. His paintings embed spirituality, with rich earth-based colors and forms that echo everyone from Leonardo da Vinci to Klee to Picasso.
“I never start with anything too specific in mind,” he says in the studio on a hot hazy weekday afternoon. “Unless I’m making work for a specific show. I choose the colors and the forms start to appear. I title the painting when I’m done.”
He has been exhibiting for decades with shows in Latin America and the Caribbean. He is now represented by a gallery in Palm Beach, Danieli Fine Art.
Caminero was based in Miami for decades until an international incident prompted him to sell his house and move north. He walked into the Perez Art Museum Miami during the opening week of “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” exhibition, a retrospective organized by the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo that later went to the Brooklyn Museum, and saw a photo on the wall of exhibiting artist Ai Wei Wei smashing a vase from his series “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn,” a group of photographs that show him shattering an ancient vase to make a point about the valuation of art and the fragility of cultural objects. In a split-second decision, he picked up one of the Wei Wei painted vases on display and smashed it. He then waited calmly for security to come and arrest him.
Asked why he says: “I did not plan it, it was an instant decision. When I saw the photo of Wei Wei doing that, it combined with the anger I felt. If I didn’t do it, now I never would. I did it for all the artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums there.”
Actually, the piece he smashed was valued at $10,000. The vase itself dated from the Han dynasty, but Mr. Ai had reimagined it by applying peach and green paint.
“If you saw the vases on display and saw the way they were painted, there is no way you would think the artist had painted over an ancient artifact,” said Caminero. “Instead, I thought it was a common pot like you’d find in Home Depot. But I paid restitution of $10,000, the appraised value of the actual vase.”
Moving past that incident, Caminero spends every day in his studio, painting one large work after another. While he is still bitter about the lack of attention he feels “local” artists don’t receive, he keeps on painting and making art, which is what really matters in the end.
His studio is located at 444 Northwood Rd, West Palm Beach. With influences from impressionist painters like Ramón Oviedo, José Guadalupe, and Wilfredo Lam, his art is capable of conveying the invisible through abstract forms that flow in harmonic strokes and colors that depict the nature of its universe.