The Michael Margulies Artist Agency proudly opens the 101 Exhibit gallery doors to present The Valdeziacs, a solo exhibition featuring a culmination of the most recent works by local painter, Kiki Valdes. The new artworks in The Valdeziacs are in itself is a nod to childhood nostalgia; the work transforms the characteristics of well-known and loved cartoon figures into complete abstraction.
Which Disney/Nickelodeon characters inspired the pieces in the series?
The paintings to me don’t have any specific cartoon characters. But, the work of John Kricfalusi for me was a starting point. People seem to bring up Ren and Stimpy when they see the paintings. It’s really about painting a familiar feeling someone gets from cartoons and using it to address painting and abstraction.
How successful I will be? I can’t say but that’s really what I’m exploring. I’m attracted to form, and some cartoon forms are quite interesting to me. The act of painting and the places it can take me is really what inspires what I’m doing. The cartoons are more of a visual tool to get the paintings going.
What do you think about the more recent characters Disney/Nickelodeon have developed?
I don’t really follow current cartoons very much. Isn’t Disney Channel just a bunch of teen live action shows these days? (laughs)
I only know that because I have some younger cousins. I’m sure whatever is out there is brainwashing the kids, in a good way of course. (laughs)
Are there any 3 dimensional works in the exhibition? Have you ever considered sculpting your characters?
This is a straight up painting show. No sculptures. I have no intentions of doing any sculpture. Would I like to? Sure why not but it’s not my focus at the moment. My mind is on painting. You can get lost in the world of sculpture and painting. They are limitless in my view. It’s wonderful and it can be a lifetime of work. I respect sculptors very much. When I do more sculpture I want to devote a great amount of time for it. I know I might need to get fabricators to make the sculpture, which seems to be common practice.
Which artist(s) have inspired you?
Obviously, Philip Guston. His later work was very revolutionary and you can see the Robert Crumb/underground comics influence happening. As always Gorky, De Kooning and Picasso. I also follow Joyce Pensato, Eddie Martinez, Rosson Crow, Erik Parker, Taylor McKimens etc. All great artists. In between painting I have had a little David Lynch movie bug as well.
Why did you title the current exhibit The Valdeziacs? How many pieces will you be exhibiting?
Joe Margulies. He’s the brother of my art dealer/agent. He was seeing the work I was making and kept calling the work “The Valdeziacs.” It reminded him of the 90’s cartoon Animaniacs. The work quickly pulled him to his childhood. I never watched and never used that show as a starting point. But, I liked that he thought of that cartoon when he was looking at the work. It pulled him to when he was a little kid. He’s thinking about it, yet I never painted any of those characters.
I find the connection of childhood memories in his visualization of the paintings great. I will be showing 11 works and 12 to 20 smaller works which to me are more like studies for the bigger work.
Kiki Valdes is a Cuban American expressionist painter born in Miami, FL and based in New York. Valdes’ work explores the multidimensional complexities of people, religion, American-life, sex, and superstition. His canvases tend to overlap on top of various unresolved paintings and capture a sense of association, rhythm and conflict. Valdes often refers to his paintings as studies; instead of art history’s draw toward the female or still-life, Valdes explores the use of 1990’s cartoons with expressionistic tendencies. His appropriation of Disney/Nickelodeon characters is a starting point for him to redefine his understanding of the subject. The work can best be described as a marriage between abstract expressionism, cartoons, and Caribbean folklore.
Many of the current paintings move into a new direction for the artist. Cartoon characters provide the first entry point to Valdes’ complex explorations of layered cut canvas collages, abstractions, and figurative cartoon imagery. He paints the excited, cryptic images of bubbly faces and toon masks to convey a feeling of childhood nostalgia as a visual tactic to address space and form.
Kiki Valdes sees the cartoon imagery as a way to communicate and connect with a wider audience by conjuring memories. Cartoons have seeped into our consciousness since childhood and the artist uses those recognizable images and memories as prop for questions about painting and our obsession with the familiar. Certain qualities like curves, exaggerated eyes and big mouth emphasize the duality of his compositions and create a battle between the familiar graphic figuration and what is familiar in painting. Valdez creates a place where darkness and light meet. He merges both and they open a dialogue and leave space for interpretation.