Federico Herrero is well-known as an abstract painter who uses unconventional locations and surfaces as a context for his large scale graphic murals. While Herrero at times works inside galleries, he often works with difficult sites whether it is the horizontal expanse of an exposed rooftop or the narrow corner of the custodian’s closet. His work, through form, colour and context directly addresses the division between art and social life, attempting to build a bridge between art as a specialized commodity and its larger place in the community. To address these concerns and extending our exhibition programme into the streets, the Contemporary Art Gallery commissioned Herrero to design a mural for our windows, using his formal vocabulary as a visual membrane, bringing our presence directly into the city. Also working with Autobox Media, the CAG designed a program, using Layar Reality Browser to create a virtual mural to be applied on selected sites throughout Vancouver. The artwork is accessible through any smartphone. Please go to http://offsite.contemporaryartgallery.ca for full details.
The Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero is well-known as an abstract painter who uses unconventional locations and surfaces as a context for his large-scale graphic murals. While Herrero at times works traditionally inside galleries, painting on canvas or directly on the walls, his works are primarily site-specific and more commonly produced outside as part of a cityscape. In 2007 in Medellin, Colombia, Herrero painted the cement pillars raising the subway tracks over the city’s central park, covering the uniformly drab surface in bright flat planes of blue, which acted as the background for his characteristic layering of colorful geometric shapes.
Herrero seeks out difficult sites from the horizontal expanse of an exposed rooftop to the cracks in concrete pathways. Cement is a familiar surface for the artist; he has painted the bottom of a pool and covered the brutalist structure of the Central Library in Portsmouth, UK with a bright and intricate wallpaper. Most recently Herrero painted the exteriors of four fishing huts on the Rhine, using his idiosyncratic style, which often contrasts solid monochromatic planes with dense and somewhat chaotic clusters of multi-coloured organic forms. His colour choices alone are enough to make the huts pop out in contrast to the landscape, but it is his distinctive compositions that are transformative. The murals seem to physically alter the positions of the huts — like the chaotic compositions dislodge the structures from their stable place at the edge of the Rhine, creating the illusion that they somehow are flowing with the river. The static forms are vibrant with the energy of Herrero’s sophisticated configurations of vivid colours. The architecture vibrates, moving like the landscape — growing with the grass, shifting with the light, rising with the moon, running alongside the water, endless changing.
He uses the word Vibrantes to name this intervention. It is also the title of his piece for the Contemporary Art Gallery. The title is transferable from one project to another describing a shared quality of the work. Vibrantes (vibrants) becomes an adjective and a noun, functioning to illustrate and name. But it also modifies into a verb, evoking his process. Herrero is a painter. He builds his compositions slowly over the course of making a painting. He starts with a basic plan, but the final terms are undetermined. His choice of colour, the quantity of space it occupies and the geometric form it takes are left to momentary decisions. He relies on the mutability of the medium as well as the unfamiliarity of the surface to keep his actions in the present.
For his installation at the CAG, Herrero shifted mediums. Using sheets of coloured adhesive vinyl instead of paint, he progressively assembled an interconnected composition across the CAG’s two stories of windows and glass doors. The translucent glass became the field for an imbricated array of cut forms that were transversely layered, accumulating in density and amalgamating into a cohesive composition. But even after he finished the piece, having worked his way from the west side of the second story to the east ground floor corner of the gallery’s façade, the work still constantly shifted in intensity, opacity and saturation. As the clouds roll in or the sun moved across the glass, the work’s properties changed. The background regularly turned in colour and sheen. And when the seasons changed, and the days darken and the nights grew longer, the interior lights appeared brighter. The fluorescent and incandescent lights emanating from within affected the colours and the complexity of the forms. At times the internal brightness muted the vinyl palette and hid the multiplicity of forms.
Paradoxically, this instability is what grounds Herrero’s work. Through form, color and context, the artist directly addresses the division between art and social life, attempting to bridge the notion that art is a specialized commodity with arts larger place in the community. Here the CAG’s façade became this connection – a vibrant conduit melding in and outside, extending the exhibitions into the streets and addressing the gallery’s location and physical presence in Vancouver– at the base of a generic condo high-rise on the corner of an intersection with three other similar buildings. The uniformity functions like a well patterned camouflage, which is a problem for a public institution that wants to be seen. But it is also a civic concern as Vancouver’s skyline and downtown streetscape become indistinct. Vancouver is already commonly used by the film and television industries as a stand in city. These concerns have been well articulated in the local media, but Herrero’s Vibrantes offered a temporary reprieve, positing a fantastical solution. He used his formal vocabulary as a visual field to define the Gallery’s presence and insert his unique signature into a city still struggling to find one. The key is the work’s mutability, which reflected and visualized a variety of extraordinary futures for a city that is still growing.
To confront these concerns further and move beyond the gallery’s walls, Herrero participated in the gallery’s off-site programme. Working with Autobox Media and consultant Hannah Hughes, the Contemporary Art Gallery designed a program, using Layar Reality Browser that used elements of Herrero’s work to virtually build murals on selected sites throughout Vancouver. The artwork will be accessible through most smartphones. Please go to http://offsite.contemporaryartgallery.ca for full details.
Our Off-site programme is generously supported by TELUS, 2010 Legacies Now and the Canadian Art Foundation.
The latest participatory offsite project at the CAG, inspired by Federico Herrero’s CAG commission Vibrantes, witnessed a wonderful turnout at its project launch last Saturday, December 3rd.
The new project provides participants with the opportunity to interact with emerging colour shapes that appear through their smartphones, creating layers of abstract forms over their surroundings. The shapes are accessible throughout the downtown Vancouver area and can be captured as far as Granville Island and some participants have even found them in Kitsilano.
For more information on how to interact with this participatory project go to offsite.contemporaryartgallery.ca for easy-to-follow instructions.
Again, participants are encouraged to share their digital ‘paintings’ by taking screenshots and uploading these images to Twitter under the project hashtag: #CAGOFFSITE.
See a few examples below and on our Flickr site: www.flickr.com/photos/contemporaryartgalleryvancouver/MORE
Please join us on Saturday December 3rd at 3 pm at the CAG to launch the latest participatory offsite project expanding our current exhibition into the streets of Vancouver.
Federico Herrero’s vivid and dynamic new commission in the Contemporary Art Gallery’s façade, Vibrantes, is the inspiration point for our latest offsite project. Encapsulating the social nature of Herrero’s artistic practice, rooted in the display of work in the public realm, the project allows participants to generate their own compositions, blocking colour across the city’s buildings via a special program.
Through the screens of your smartphones, visitors will be able to view a potential and unfolding mural, occupying the digital space around the gallery and expanding into nearby streets. Users can then explore the surrounding area where they will be able to uncover series of coloured shapes with which to create virtual paintings in surprising locations.
Digital clusters of differing colours will shift and change dependent on the user’s position and viewpoint, allowing each person their own unique version of a mural in virtual space. Participants will be encouraged to compose and then share their digital paintings by taking screenshots and uploading these images to Twitter under the project hashtag: #CAGOFFSITE. All photographs will be credited and published on Contemporary Art Gallery affiliated media including this blog and the Facebook page, establishing an evolving community as we paint the town.
Get there at 3pm and be one of the first forty participants who will receive a coloured vinyl shape inspired by Herrero’s mural. With only one piece per person available, bring friends and family to create a cluster you can install on your walls at home.
Hours: Wed. – Sun. 12 – 6 pm. FREE ENTRY