Candid, passionate, and uninhibited, Ohlala is the character at the center of Reen Barrera's practice. The recurring figure functions as a vessel for the artist’s own experiences and emotions, which culminate in portraits rendered in acrylic, oil, aerosol and wooden figurines that stand a few inches tall or stretch to imposing heights. “There is this idiom that says ‘it’s written all over your face,’ which gave me an idea that regardless of what we say, our true feelings can still be emancipated by our facial expressions,” the Paris-born artist says in a statement. “For me, it’s a silent way of communicating something without noise.”
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To convey the characters’ wildly varied emotions, Barrera subtly shifts the form, materials, and colorful motifs: Ohlala often wears hoods with animal ears and patchwork clothing with chunky, uneven seams; an amalgam of abstract patterns and small botanics coat the figure’s face; and oversized hands display unambiguous gestures. The artist leaves drips, splashes, and other mistakes visible, too, adding to the unmediated theme of his works.
If you’re in Los Angeles, you can see Ohlala’s many moods as part of a sold-out show titled Cluster Fudge on view at Thinkspace Projects through June 26. Otherwise, check out Barrera’s site and follow him on Instagram.