Center Field, Art in the Middle | Mashed Up and Shredded into Space: An Interview with Candida Alvarez

January 10, 2013 | Published Articles, Writing

Originally published on Art21 in January, 2013.

I was down at the Hyde Park Art Center this last December. The doors to the main gallery on the first floor were closed when I arrived but I could sense movement behind them; a crack of light beneath the door was regularly interrupted by shadows, making me increasingly curious about the not-yet-open exhibit. Finally someone pulled back the gallery door, flooding the Art Center lobby with light and gushing color. It seemed like the perfect and sudden immersion into Chicago-based Candida Alvarez’s paintings—to have stood on one side of a dim-lit room only to find a world of vibrant color and lush paint waiting behind a door. This ismambomountain—the artist’s most recent collection of large-scale oil and acrylic paintings. The gallery contains several large works in addition to a small studio archive behind two temporary walls—giving visitors permission to connect the inner workings of her process with the resulting, public canvas. mambomountain is on view at the Hyde Park Art Center until March 24, 2013.

Candida Alvarez, "Chill," 2011, oil, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Hyde Park Art Center.

Candida Alvarez. “Chill,” 2011. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 in. Courtesy the artist and Hyde Park Art Center.

Caroline Picard: Can you talk a little bit about how you think about a painting’s relationship to space? Partly, I ask because I read about your show, For Sol Lewitt, where the work seems to intervene marginalized space directly, whether by placing works in an upper corner, or by projection beams of light. (Is that accurate? I only saw photos.) Your show at Hyde Park Art Center is taking similar factors into consideration, even though it might be less apparent as the works are primarily large canvases hung on the wall.

Candida Alvarez: My paintings intervene within a space. They participate and bring into conversation what lies between, above, below, behind, and in front. It is the excitement of taking paintings out of the studio and leading them towards a conversation that can be totally unexpected.

At the Hyde Park Art Center, I created a study room. By adding color and suspending two overlapping portable walls, the dimensions and the mood of the room changed as it heightened a sense of intimacy, which juxtaposed against the larger viewing space, gives those paintings more breathing space.

On the outside wall of the front gallery, there is a monitor that locates me inside my studio space, as you hear me talking about my painting process. I wanted to create an alternative to a wall text in order to possibly grab the attention of the teenagers that roam this community space, who are mostly indifferent to what is on the walls.

Mambo Mountain is an imaginary place, as are these paintings. I grew up in the projects, I rode the elevators up to the 14th floor, and I loved to look out the windows. That is where my mountain started and it has spread to the mountains that my parents grew up on, and live on to this day in Puerto Rico. (read more)