Cesar Santos: InFormal
September 22 – October 27, 2023
From the gallery:
This is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Europe, and marks a pivotal moment in his career, launching a new body of work in an innovative, highly unique style that the artist has developed over the past year.
Moving beyond the representational portraiture that has been the core of his oeuvre until recently, the works in this exhibition demonstrate Santos’s personal spirit unleashed through his creations. The paintings and drawings appear simultaneously familiar, evoking the aesthetics of the Old Masters, and unrecognizable, comprised of intangible forms that appear to shift and coalesce throughout each composition.
In creating these works, the artist begins by approaching the blank canvas with broad expressive brushstrokes, filling large areas with paint in monochrome shades; after this initial spontaneous stage, Santos refines the work using his intuition and artistic experience, giving order and coherence to the component parts. Each work is as much a surprise to the artist as to his audience; he does not embark on a work with a set idea of the outcome, rather the process is a journey of discovery, with the individual marks and gestures imbuing each piece with a unique atmosphere.
In the artist’s own words: “The materiality of the paint and the canvas becomes an eco-system of relationships, representing colors, space, and solidity with their potentiality in motion. I make new objects communicate in their environment, becoming stories of the visual system with open possibilities.”
Santos’ inspirations are drawn from the more awkward or subversive corners of art history, such as Old Masters who were the eccentrics of their era, such as Giuseppe Arcimboldo, or those whose style was at odds with conventional beauty, such as El Greco or Francisco Goya. Further, his paintings take influence from the fleshy forms of Peter Paul Rubens and the expressive grandeur of Michelangelo and Raphael.
Alongside his European Old Master models, in these artworks, the artist incorporates elements from the cultures of his native Cuba, and the United States, infused with his own interest in psychology. Santos synthesizes these diverse experiences with a rigorous understanding of design, color, and the structure of his materials, giving birth to his art.
The artworks presented in this exhibition suggest the notion that even though a painting is a static, abstract message of nature, it can appear fluid in its meaning, in a visual state of motion. Santos purposefully leaves ambiguity and openness in the finished work, allowing the viewer to comprehend it through their individual faculties.
Cesar Santos is a Cuban-American artist, born in Santa Clara, Cuba, and brought up in Miami, Florida. He studied at the New World School of the Arts in Florida, followed by a period of training in Florence. Subsequently, Santos moved to New York City, immersing himself in the vibrant art scene. While in New York, he received first prize in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s photography competition, ‘It’s Time We Met’.
Santos’s work has been exhibited in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Asia, including at the Museum of Art and Design, Miami; Palazzo Cipolla, Rome; the Villa Bardini Museum, Florence; National Gallery, Costa Rica; and the Beijing World Art Museum, China. His work features in the collections of significant institutions including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sicily, the New Salem Museum and the Academy of Fine Art in Massachusetts, and the Museum of Design in Miami.
Santos currently lives and works in Florence.
Cesar Santos has a variety of art video workshops available through PaintTube.tv, including:
- Secrets of Portrait Painting (in English and Spanish)
- Secrets of Figure Painting
- Secrets of Figure Drawing
- Let Cesar Santos teach you how to paint: Start here