Review /

Jonathan Torres Roberto Paradise / San Juan

Jonathan Torres (1983, San Juan) is one of the new breed of young talented artists of the small island of Puerto Rico. His most recent exhibit Cody at Gallery Roberto Paradise in San Juan (formerly known as Galería Comercial) showcases a series of paintings and sculptures that reveal a profound predilection for expressionist and lush compositions.

“The savage and the baroque make strange bedfellows, I enjoy sleeping with both.” –says Torres. This remark is without no doubt very appropriate when trying to code his pictorial exercise that feeds itself from a genuine mix of Caribbean roots and European influences. While we look at his works we experience a predilection for colorful, strange, and unheimlich creatures and personae that blend into refreshingly strong, bizarre stories in which the everyday and the oniric go hand in hand.

Torres’ friends and personal experiences share protagonism on the canvas with monsters, but also with intestines, blood, sperm, creepy mouths, and vomits. The overall composition is densed, several storylines deploy into one main plot, and the artist reminds us that even paradise on earth has its thorns (as John Milton would have put it). Here once again we sense the hispanic, Catholic heritage: the suffocating horror vacui and the memento mori.

Life and death, beauty and the grotesque, decadence and re-birth, reality and fiction; all these extremes combine in Neo-baroque compositions like Fucked by the Paradise (which reminds me of James Ensor’s Entry of Christ into Brussels) or the monster-like sculpture titled The Garden, made out of fiberglass, foam, papier mache, and artificial flowers.

The accumulation of kitsch elements here becomes a natural proceeding –as it does in the everyday Caribbean- that reinforces and adds to the final visual impact. From a formal point of view, the artist works layer after layer starting with charcoal, gel, acrylic, and paint. The final ‘dripping’ gives the composition a strong tactile feel to it. For Torres heaven and hell are just two colorful sides of the same coin!

by Paco Barragán