Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Artist Renzo Ortega paints the immigrant experience

The artist has been documenting his painting project, Mar Bravo, where he paints about the immigrant experience, commercial trade history, and how all that intersects. Inspired by the nearby beach, he has been collecting sand that he adds into the paint for texture.

As the debut Artist-in-Residence Program artist, Renzo Ortega kicks off the New Wave Art Wknd’s initiative with an open studio in a storefront in Rosemary Square. He live-streams every Friday at 3 pm EST on the @rosemarysquarewpb account and he is documenting his painting project, Mar Bravo, in a series of videos he will share through July 31. The public can watch his live painting progress from the studio’s open windows.

“New Wave was founded to make a direct contribution to the lives of artists from marginalized communities whose work responds to current events,” says Sarah Gavlak, who in addition to owning her gallery, GAVLAK, Los Angeles/Palm Beach,  is New Wave Art Wknd’s Founder and Executive Director. “New Wave focuses on promoting inclusivity, diversity, racial and social injustice, and other pressing issues facing our immigrant, BIPOC, and LGBTQ communities. These topics are addressed through community engagement in order to foster critical dialogue during New Wave Art Wknd and the residency program. Resident artists are invited to participate in our program based on the professional expertise and suggestions of our Advisory Committee Members and Professional Collaborators.”

Artist Renzo Ortega paints the immigrant experience
Artist Renzo Ortega at work in his open studio in a storefront at Rosemary Square. (Photo Addiel Perera, WPB Magazine)

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Renzo was chosen for being an immigrant artist whose practice and work speaks to his place in this country and his journey of becoming documented from undocumented. Born in Lima, Perú 1974, he received his BFA in painting from the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes del Perú (1999), studied at the Art Students League of New York (2000-04), and received an MFA in painting from Hunter College (2014). His artwork has been exhibited in solo and group shows in galleries and museums across the United States and internationally. In 2013, as a Kossak Travel Grant recipient, Ortega traveled to Berlin to study German Expressionism, and in 2015 traveled to Honduras as a part of the U.S. Department of Cultural Affairs Cultural Envoy Program. New Wave Art Wknd “is thrilled to welcome Ortega as their inaugural artist-in-residence,” says gallerist Gavlak.

For Mar Bravo, he paints about the immigrant experience, commercial trade history, and how all that intersects. Inspired by the nearby beach, he has been collecting sand that he adds into the paint for texture. Mar Bravo isn’t an exhibit but a painting project Ortega has been working on during his residency.

Artist Renzo Ortega paints the immigrant experience
Artist Renzo Ortega touching his mural at the open studio in Rosemary Square. (Photo Addiel Perera, WPB Magazine)

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Sarah likened it to Monet’s Water Lilies as it flows with a dreamy abstract pattern. Smaller paintings address commercial trade with wine and corn, where those products originate from and who makes them move around the world.

Ortega mixes periods of art history, using different elements of 1950s abstraction and contemporary images. He highlights the cultural differences and similarities, how European influences washed up on North and South American shores, bringing their colors and architecture.

“Working here in downtown West Palm Beach, I am surrounded by many types of architecture and that is finding its way into the work,” Ortega says. “The local environment, palette, textures, history, it all finds its way into the artwork. I go to the ocean and that to me is a spiritual place, it is an offering to life. I also see the ocean connection to the nearby islands and how religions influence the people’s immigration by boat and where they ended up if they made it at all. This work is for those who crossed the waters voluntarily and involuntarily. If they make it, they bring their culture with them; we cannot afford to lose our heritage.”

Artist Renzo Ortega paints the immigrant experience
Artist Renzo Ortega explaining his new project. (Photo Addiel Perera, WPB Magazine)

Ortega has constructed a sculpture of a boat in the front of the space, with faces on boxes painted on all four sides, the waves roiling underneath this desperate journey.

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“To me, art is a part of the dialog for social justice,” he says. “My paintings large and small are stories of the people as well as the elements of rain and water. It is like music made with different instruments, the patterns will vary like the rhythms of the ocean.”

Ortega was also influenced by the Werner Herzog 2010 film Cave of Forgotten Dreams about the Chauvet Cave in southern France, which contains some of the oldest human-painted images ever discovered. Some of them were crafted around 32,000 years ago, and show fields of running horses, rhinos, lions, human handprints in panoramic murals.

He believes that people “will look back at this point in time and realize we are all in the same boat with culture and connection and art and food.”

Artist Renzo Ortega Paints the Immigrant Experience

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