In Miguel Arzabe’s bestiaries, wide-eyed owls, pink pumas, and whale sharks emerge from planes of woven acrylic. The Oakland-based artist draws on his Bolivian roots and Andean textile traditions as he laces strips of sliced paintings into landscapes occupied by creatures both real and mythological. Arzabe’s most recent body of work, Animales Familiares, brings these beasts to the fore through vivid planes of blurred Earth and sky.
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The artist begins each piece by reproducing a pair of modernist paintings, which he cuts into thin lengths and weaves together. Most often unrecognizable in their new forms—Rothko’s clear influence in the color-blocked “Tiburón Ballena” makes the piece an outlier—the replicas root the works in Western art history. Arzabe distorts these references, though, by layering the paintings into new landscapes, intertwining the varying geographies and cultures to allow both to coexist.
On view from September 16 to October 29 at Johansson Projects, Animales Familiares imagines creatures common to the planet and spiritual realm to consider “one’s place in the universe,” Arzabe says. Find more of the artist’s work on his site and Instagram.
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