Raul is a cool artist who lives in Los Angeles. He’s big on color www.rdelatorre.com and I find his work pretty exciting. I also like his views on contemporary art and the role he thinks it plays in the lives of everyday people. Here’s our cool chat.
MICHAEL: Hola Raul! Your work is very cool. You like to use color. I see lots of lines of color. Why do you like colors so much?
RAUL: Hi Michael. First, thank you for the interest on my work and get ready to edit because English is not my first language, so some corrections should be done. To answering your first question: Yes, I work with color. I like color, but the funny thing is that to me color is something new. When I was working in Europe before my move to California, my work was all about the message, heavily influenced by other Catalan artists like Tapies, Guinovart, Miro, Clave and by the political situation of my country, Catalonia. Once I moved to Los Angeles, I discovered a new world that opened my eyes. Until 2007, most of my work was still in black and white with some red and earth colors, but I left that road to start to explore with textures and color in 2008.
MICHAEL: Did you leave Catalonia because of the political situation? Why did you go to L.A.?
RAUL: No, politics never had anything to do with me moving to the U.S. I still follow Catalan-Spanish politics and would love and hope to see Catalonia as an independent nation. I moved here for a more practical reason. The economic situation had a lot to do with it. Art in Spain is more reserved to the elite, not a cultural one like in the U.S., a financial one. The middle class in Spain can't afford fine art, maybe prints. I have many clients here in U.S. who are not wealthy, but they still like to buy original art.
MICHAEL: And Los Angeles?
RAUL: I fell in love with L.A. in 1992; the weather, amazing art, the light and beautiful women. Well, a beautiful Californian had a lot to do in the final decision.
MICHAEL: I understand. How would you describe your work and why do you paint and create art?
RAUL: Well, why I paint and create art is easy. It makes me happy and somehow I think I was born to do this. I always had a pencil in my hands and love to draw. I paint as a job and draw as a hobby, it relaxes me. I'm always trying new things, but my last series, “FILS I COLORS,” is the result of years of work. I first started to make cuts with a razor 10 years ago. I remember reading an old interview with Joan Miro where he said: “I want to assassinate painting.” That started the process. I created a series of works on canvas and materials were involved but not paint. Making large cuts on large canvas and filling those gaps with: cardboard, old t-shirts, paper, etc. I left that behind and three years ago, I decided to explore the combination of color and destruction of the working surface and that was the beginning of “THREADS AND COLORS – FILS I COLORS.” I work with paint and then make cuts on the paper or canvas and then I fill those gaps embroidering with cotton thread to create textures on the work. FILS I COLORS is an attempt to find life, movement and parts that are not static, that change in their interaction with the observer. It is also essential that the different combinations of colors represent different emotions and interpretations for each individual interacting with the works. I like to make people think. For the most part, people are hooked all day to a screen that is telling them what to do, watch, buy, etc. I want to make them think, feel, talk. I know what each work of the series represents for me: moods, people, moments, life and love. I can remember the moment each one of them was made and why I chose those colors. You have to feel what it represents for you.
MICHAEL: In your process of getting people to think, do you want them to see your work the way you see it?
RAUL: No, that is not the goal. If they stop a few minutes and the work speaks to them, I would be satisfied. What they see or feel is up to each individual.
MICHAEL: Then why do you think people sometimes seem to think they need an art history PhD to relate to contemporary art?
RAUL: It always helps to know or study about art to have an easier approach to the subject, but I don’t think it’s necessary. If you take a list of the 200 most important contemporary art collectors in the world, how many art history PhDs would you find in there? I’m almost sure all of them relate and comprehend art. You relate and understand art: looking, breathing, touching it (yes some works have to be touched), visit galleries, museums, artists’ studios (we love to have people around and talk about our work). Listen to the artists or read about them, feel the work and then get your own conclusions. It may not move you like to someone else, but that is just life.
MICHAEL: Do you see any differences in how Europeans view contemporary art compared to Americans?
RAUL: It's hard to generalize, but I think the gap was wider 20 years ago. Like in other areas of our everyday lives, art is a “victim” of globalization. In the 80’s, the art world in New York and Europe was similar in taste and tendencies and 180 degrees different to what artists were creating in Los Angeles. Today, with all of the international art fairs and internet, those differences are gone.
MICHAEL: Yes, the internet has leveled the playing field.
RAUL: The internet changed everything and it’s a great tool, used the right way, on the hands of an artist. It gets us closer to the public and clients we didn’t have access to decades ago. If we are talking about the public, usually the people who move in the contemporary art circles are educated people with similar social and economic backgrounds here in the U.S. and Europe. So no, I don’t think that the perception or the approach to art is different.
MICHAEL: Isn't it stunning how blue chip art continues to sell like hotcakes with the super-wealthy while emerging artists are struggling?
RAUL: It's not a surprise. I don't think that is something new particularly in times of economic crisis.
MICHAEL: My point is we can't blame museums and auction houses for constantly selling and showing Picasso, Warhol and Rothko, all proven sellers, but doesn't the art world seem upside down given the huge number of gifted artists alive NOW?
RAUL: Maybe it’s because there is too much to offer. Look at the music market right now. So many talented people out there, but the ones who can fill stadiums are bands from the 60's, 70's and 80's. It's hard to have a global point of view when in Los Angeles we have so much going on. There are many new galleries, shows and talented artists. Here, art is very much alive. And yes, some institutions, local museums should be more focused on helping discover new artists in their communities. It would help to break some social barriers.
MICHAEL: How did you become an artist? Do you come from an artistic family?
RAUL: As I said earlier, I’ve had a pencil in my hand since I can remember. I could say I was born an artist. I remember the first time I thought, “This is what I want to be in life.” I was 11 years old and my dad took me to see a Antoni Tapies show at the Galeria Maeght in Barcelona. I fell in love with Tapies work and still today, I think he’s the greatest artist of the 20th Century. Another show that I remember as a kid was a Paul Klee show at the Fundacio Miro in Barcelona. I was about 12 years old and it caused a big impact on me. And of course, I was born and raised in Barcelona. We are lucky to have many museums. It’s a city where you breathe art, design and architecture 24/7. We have Tapies, Miro, Guinovart, Clave, Tharrats, Mir, etc. Museums like MACBA, Picasso, Fundacio Miro, Fundacio Tapies, etc. My dad is an art collector and likes to buy paintings here and there and one of my great uncles, Moises Varga was a sculptor.
MICHAEL: Finally Raul, What role do you think art plays in the world today and where does your work fit in all of that?
RAUL: Unfortunately, it doesn't play the role it should. We are too focused on commercialized, pseudo-art and not in creation itself. I see the new generation of artists coming out of school giving too much importance to the financial value of their creation and not to aesthetic or artistic concerns. The mass media is having too much influence in the art world and not in a positive way. I would like to make people interact with my art, feel it, think about it and that way, analyzing the work will make them part of the creative process. That can transport them to the artist’s mental state and to the feeling of freedom that it comes with it.
MICHAEL: How do you balance your life as an artist with being a single dad? How many kids do you have and how is your work influenced by your offspring?
RAUL: I have a 6-year-old son, Nico. Sometimes it's not easy, but you find the way. The biggest difference since he was born is my way of working. I used to spend 24-48 hours or more in the studio, working non-stop and I can't do that anymore. I'm on a schedule most of the time. We spend a lot of time together at the studio and he loves to paint. I'm always mesmerized by how easy it is for him to create new worlds or characters on paper. He is an inspiration.
MICHAEL: That’s very cool. Thanks Raul. This has been fun.
RAUL: Thank you, Michael.
Check out Raul at www.rdelatorre.com.