My goal is to reclaim the promise of modernism. My practice takes on a didactic sensibility through the emotional study of abstract painting. It is a push for a conversation with those that have preceded me and those that will proceed me.  Although I’ve been a life long student of that history and I’m reverential to it, my aim is not just to pay respect. It is to prod, question and challenge the endless possibilities that can be achieved from laying down paint.
 
I see my own work as situated in a historical context that draws from the powerful subtleness of Ad Reinhardt, the fleshy seductiveness of Willem de Kooning, the spirituality of Mark Rothko, and the technical fortitude of Robert Ryman. My central concerns when making my work are achieving balance in tonality and producing a seductive surface that denotes accidents within controlled parameters. All fueled by instinct.
 
I was fortunate to have grown up in the South Bronx in 1980’s. Yes, there was violence. No, it wasn’t necessarily the safest neighborhood with the drug dealers, prostitutes etc rampant at the time. The AIDS epidemic hit our neighborhood especially hard as well, but beyond the stereotypical nihilism tied to the Bronx there was a palpable energy ignited by music, fashion and the visual arts. The South Bronx was the epicenter of hip hop and its effect on the community was visceral. Despite the abject appearance of abandoned buildings and vacant lots, there was a certain collective defiance born from a genuine pride for the community that existed amongst its long term residents. A pride specifically directed towards those who were trying to better themselves and as a result shed a positive light on the neighborhood in general. So if you had some sort of special talent, like drawing for instance, you garnered respect, including respect from drug dealers and other such entities. They left me alone, so I can definitely say that in ways both physical and metaphorical, the making of art provided me safety.
 
The serendipity of growing up in the South Bronx became especially clear to me when at the age of 11, I joined the longest running art collaborative in history, Tim Rollins and the Kids Of Survival. Through special projects, institutional acquisitions of our collective work and workshops that we conducted with young students in other economically depressed communities nationally and internationally, my work with Rollins and K.O.S. gave me a platform to be an ambassador for the South Bronx. A role that I relished and has helped shape my pedagogical style at the School of Visual Arts where I am currently on faculty. It is through my collaboration with K.O.S. that I have the distinction of being the youngest artist at 14 to have had work acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. To this day, I continue to collaborate with Rollins and K.O.S., in addition to developing my own practice. I’m also proud to say that our work resides in over 100 museums and public institutions worldwide. A feat that I strive to acquire with my own practice as well.
 
The significance of my collaboration with Tim Rollins and K.O.S. as far as how it informs my personal work and citizenship can be summarized in W.E.B. Du Bois words, “I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not…”. This single quote has given me permission to vigorously practice cultural defiance. These books, canonical or otherwise, are not meant to just languish in Ivy league libraries. They are not just to be read and dissected by graduate comparative lit students. These books do not discriminate based on skin color, socio-economic circumstances or sexual preference. Shakespeare wrote for me as much as he wrote for anyone else. And so, having cut my creative teeth working with literature and promoting the idea that books are not just to be read but used, I strive to have conversations with writers through the creation of my work. In essence, establishing a collaborative effort with these writers resulting in visual manifestations that transcend simple illustration. In the "mining" of these books, I find clues that help steer the scope of a particular series of work. This mode of practice leads to other visual discoveries and in turn sheds new light on the literature.
 
Most recently, I’ve concentrated on “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner. I first read it 20 years ago and it has always resonated with me because of its brutally honest view of the complexities of interfamilial relationships. Faulkner masterfully paints an underlying “matter of fact” tone that seems pervasive through out the text. It feels unsettling when dealing with issues that most would consider shocking but this highlights his tendency to celebrate the beauty of juxtaposing opposites. The book reads like a telenovela with all of the drama, tragedy as well as comedy that one would expect, but not in a gratuitous way whatsoever. He adds many different layers to the story by having each character lead at least one of the 59 chapters of the book. Each unique point of view shedding light on some sort of truth. Through different layers of paint viscosity, hues and tones I try to emulate that cacophonous yet melancholic beauty. Like Faulkner, the idea is that the underlying tone is one of unbridled hope. I believe Faulkner would be pleased.
 
Bibliography section article Bibliography Section Catalog Bibliography Section Web Link PDF icon small Sold Dot