Opening reception: Thursday September 19, from 6-8pm
Josée Bienvenu Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new drawings by Renato Orara. With ballpoint on paper, Orara brings drawing to an extreme.
"My work has always been about what matters most to me: questions, dichotomies, paradoxes, contradictions, struggles, and realizations. These all come together on a blank sheet of paper, within the parameters of one of the simplest propositions in art-making — drawing what one sees — and the dictates of an old system with a clear connection to language: figuration. While figuration in contemporary art typically exists in the service of narratives, signs, and symbols, the figure in my work, stripped of its original context and meaning, functions as a vessel for layers of ink and energy, an alchemy that makes it possible for me to push beyond the limits set by language and concepts."
"Orara's personal aesthetic tradition is based on total humility, on the portrayal of an object that is seen but never registered because in our daily life it is taken utterly for granted. By means of thousands of infinitesimal lines, produced during long hours of intense study and contemplation, Orara captures the life and soul of the object, a brussel sprout, for example, or a man's wallet worn with use. Orara's mission is about breathing life into things. (His first exhibition was of drawings from his ever-expanding series "ten thousand things that breathe.") His depictions are so exquisitely realistic that one could be misled into believing his interest lies in representation. On closer viewing, however, one perceives he is presenting something in such a way as to make us feel we are seeing it for the first time. His strokes are cells that gestate and grow into the object. Without losing the awareness of the drawing, to the viewer the drawing seems to become the object, not just to represent it. Any overlapping with something familiar from memory seems coincidental. In a curious and powerful reversal, the object one assumes served as the artist's model in "real" life is now imagined as a three dimensional representation of what Orara created on paper.
Virtuosity in drawing is not Orara's goal but rather a consequence of his vision. Still, the act of drawing is deeply significant for him. Borges once observed of one of his characters that he "favored verse" because it prevented the spectator "from forgetting unreality, a condition for art." Orara is coming from the opposite direction. He favors rendering, not to remind us of "unreality," but to draw us into Reality. In a recent conversation, Orara commented that by the time he finishes a drawing, he cannot help feeling that the object he used as a model has become sacred."
Renato Orara, born in the Philippines in 1961, lives and works in New York. Selected exhibitions include: Thrice Upon a Time, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore (2009); Trends in Paper Works, Gallery I, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX (2009); Library Bookworks, Slab Gallery, Manila, Philippines (2009); microwave six, Josée Bienvenu Gallery, New York (2008); Oeuvres en Papier, Dominique Fiat Gallery, Paris, France (2008); Moment by Moment, North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks, ND (2006); Dedication/Association, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York (2004).