On ViewLehmann Maupin
Loriel Beltrán: Calor y Color
March 31 – April 29, 2023
Loriel Beltrán’s first solo presentation with Lehmann Maupin, Calor y Color (Heat and Color), explores the subject of light and how it is created, perceived, and materialized through vibrant color. Close inspection of his works reveals that congealed paint creates surfaces that ripple like water rather than drippings or brushwork. Beltrán pours diverse hues of paint into specially crafted molds and allows them to dry for extended periods. This laborious process is repeated numerous times over the course of months. Once the paint has fully settled, Beltrán slices open the canvas, revealing a tapestry of stratified bands of paint in mesmerizing layers of vivid color that seem to undulate and converge, forming an entirely new visual field.
Beltrán’s art is characterized by a logic of accumulation that both builds on tradition and recasts it into an entirely new form of art. The press release for the show asserts his works reference American abstract art, drawing inspiration from “Lynda Benglis’s pours, Agnes Martin’s organic grids, the notion of the flatbed picture plane in Jackson Pollock’s work, Mark Rothko’s exploration of color’s expressive potential.” Venezuelan audiences, on the other hand, are likely to recognize echoes of the mid-century Cinetismo (or, Kinetic) art movement. Cinetismo was a prominent part of Beltrán’s experience growing up in Caracas and is very much still present in his memory and art consciousness. In Yellow Purple (2022) and Chromatic Black (2018–21), Beltrán recreates the optical distortions of Carlos Cruz-Diez, whereby filtered light reveals different color combinations to viewers moving around the art by using soft gradients to create a sense of gradual unfolding and deepening from different angles. Large Refractions (FS) (2022) recalls Alejandro Otero’s series of “Coloritmos” (Colorhythms), which sought to create a visual variation on musical rhythm through color fields of fractal lines and shapes. However, Beltrán’s paintings do not rely on the mathematical and mechanical concepts of the Cinetismo movement. Instead, they tap into a different kind of energy, one that is unbound by canvas or frame and full of warmth, confronting the body and impressing the senses.
Beltrán’s works, such as Green Purple (2022), extend beyond their support, constituting a kind of hanging tapestry or blanket of stratified, solid pigment. It would be hard, maybe even inaccurate, to call these paintings in the traditional sense since they deal with paint strictly as material, not as medium. According to the artist, his lines "are not illusionistic or gestural, but rather, they are structural and geologic," designed to be placed in productive tension with the dimensionality and depth of sculpture. Indeed, Beltrán employs painted strips that follow Gego’s notion of the line as an object to explore form and space, using them to question conventional views of painting and sculpture.
Beltrán’s art is the kind to give you pause. My eye drifted over the ridges of Full Spectrum Contrast (2022) where bands of paint are raised at different levels like waves of intense color that seem to vibrate and converge into something new when viewed from a different angle. Following the show’s titular Calor y Color, these latex paintings offer a consummate experience in optical intensity, chromatic vibration, and rhythmic movement, leaving the viewer wholly spellbound.