Candida Alvarez: Multihyphenate

Opening: Saturday, Nov 18, 2023 4 – 7 pm
Saturday, Nov 18, 2023 – Jan 6, 2024

451 N. Paulina
Chicago, IL 60622

The artist will be present

moniquemeloche is pleased to present Multihyphenate, a solo exhibition by Candida Alvarez and the artist’s second show with the gallery. The exhibition presents a series of new large-scale paintings on linen, intimate paintings on dinner napkins, and framed drawings. Alvarez’s complex and colorful works delicately balance abstraction and representation, interweaving the artist’s daily observations with material life. Multihyphenate represents a mashup of how experiences are accumulated and what stays with us, visualizing our evolving histories and the shapes that come from the world.

The exhibition’s origin begins with Alvarez’s mother, who has been living in the US since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. In a long-standing practice of capturing the world around her, Alvarez takes photos of anything interesting that catches her eye. Among her large inventory of inspiration are printed iPhone photos of her mother sitting: at a restaurant (a particular pose caught her eye), in her home (the sunlight hitting her cheek), at the doctor (the way she dressed that day), etc., which span her studio walls. Sitting, a gesture that the artist’s 93-year-old mother frequently performs, lingers with Alvarez as she recalls Raphael’s The Madonna of the Chair, one of the first paintings she remembers seeing as a child, a coveted reproduction on her mother’s well-worn bible. Watching her mother through a photo lens, the shape of the relationship builds into a formal image and the photos become reassembled into paintings; Alvarez’s mother embodied. Sitting allows one to linger, which the artist finds comfort in, granting space to discover something mysteriously wonderful. The studio hosts a blooming orchid plant, an avocado tree, and beyond that, the tranquil rural Michigan landscape on which the artist’s studio sits, eliciting memories of the vista from her late father’s workshop in Puerto Rico. This new body of work was birthed in the studio and continued through two residencies at the LUMA Foundation in Arles, France in April and at Skowhegan in Maine this summer, marking Alvarez’s return as a mentor 42 years after her first residency there. Together, these bits and pieces become the compositional building blocks for her paintings and drawings, hybrid spaces ripe with color and pattern.

Amongst a series of distinct large kaleidoscopic paintings, ten small works on Yupo paper hold space for drawing. Titled Arles Drawings, the works capture the artist’s time in the south of France. For Alvarez, drawing is essential, it is every day, it is the first thing you learn as a child, and it always informs her paintings. Drawing is the artist’s starting point–direct, gestural, primal, mark making. It affords the freedom to use line as a beginning point, from which color interjects. Drawing concretizes and then slips away as color fills the atmosphere, a call and response shaped by intuition. Accumulations of moves turn into visual material, a language of shapes and colors. Shape is metamorphosized from light, sound, a plant, a body, a sculpture, a mother, a daughter, Raphael’s Madonna, orchids, the French countryside; it’s all those things and not just one thing which become her work. It’s the multihyphenate personality of the painter and the drawer which gives permission for these collisions to happen in a way the artist can control.

Multihyphenate showcases Alvarez’s methodology, always flexible, imaginative, and fueled by an unrelenting curiosity with the world around her. It’s the living part, the love part, the trusting part, the multiples that accumulate together to shape the way we see the world. Moreover, it’s simply allowing painting to speak on its own terms, away from the hierarchy of what painting should be about, it’s the possibility to create portraiture through abstraction. For Alvarez, it’s living palimpsest.

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Image: Candida Alvarez, Skowhegan #4, 2023. Flashe paint on cotton, 19 x 19 in