Posted by YSL on June 15, 2009 at 01:13 PM
St.Louis-born and Brooklyn-residing artist Edward del Rosario carefully places his protagonists in isolated scenarios where they have to face quirky yet psychologically challenging situations with indistinct results. He received his BFA in Painting from the University of Kansas and his MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Rhode Island School of Design. Lodown caught this outstanding talent while he’s busily preparing his first solo shows, one is in Milan, Italy with Massimo Carasi and the other in New York, with Nancy Margolis Gallery.
Edward, to start with, how did you enter the world of Fine Arts...
were you already scribbling from the moment that you received your first set of markers as a kid, or was that a passion you developed a little later in your teenage years?
I sketched and doodled like most kids and showed a moderate talent for it when I was young. I think my grade school class voted me “most likely to be an artist.” On the other hand, they also voted me to be “most likely to star in a Broadway remake of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’.” When I was a teenager I received a lot of encouragement to pursue art from my high school art teacher but the idea of being an artist was very abstract to me. Aside from art teachers, there were no professional artists in my life that could have served as role models. So although I continued to take art classes in college, I pursued other directions. I considered medicine but didn’t pursue it. My first declared major was philosophy but I soon switched to architecture. It wasn’t until my fourth year of college that I decided to major solely in painting. My entrance into the world of fine arts was through a process of elimination. I never thought that art was something that was possible to do full-time but as I eliminated the other potential careers in my life, art became the only avenue that remained.
Were you always a ‘figurative’ artist?
No, I tried my hand with abstract art but I never really had much success with it. Painting figuratively came a little easier and I chose the path of lesser resistance. Prior to graduate school, I painted mostly interiors and still lives but during graduate school I began working with video and performance art. Painting the figure was something that I started experimenting with during my final semester at Rhode Island School of Design.
For me personally, a lot of your paintings portrait situations that seem to be the result of heavy misunderstandings between your protagonists... would you say that your art focuses on the human dilemma of miscommunication or is it about psychological challenging situations in general?
I would say that my work focuses on portraying the confrontations that produce psychologically challenging situations. Miscommunication between protagonists plays a key role but I think that it is one aspect of the greater conflict between the characters. There are other conditions affecting the conflict such as the balance of power and cultural mores. And rather than ‘miscommunication’ I might say ‘miscomprehension.’
By looking at your paintings, I was wondering if you’re familiar with Beckett’s Theatre of the Absurd?
I am familiar with Beckett, and I am a big fan of Theater of the Absurd but I think that I relate more to Eugene Ionesco. I am more interested in social interaction and group mentality, and less about individual identity. I think that Ionesco deals more with larger social issues and their effects while Beckett deals mostly with individuals and their own personal mental drama. Also, I think that Ionesco has a better sense of humour.
I was also wondering, if your paintings can be seen as a large story or narrative that just somehow got fractured in the process? Are you laying out a kind of story before you start to paint?
My paintings can definitely be seen as part of a Meta narrative. However, it is a narrative that comes from a lost manuscript and the storytellers are piecing it back together through a veiled memory, hearsay, and personal bias. They often get the story wrong. I keep the idea of a Meta narrative in the back of my head but I don’t have a specific story in mind before I start working. I usually start by creating a cast of characters and then see how they relate to each other and how they might best contribute to the Meta narrative. The story develops from the characters’ relationships and interactions and the painting composition develops out of the story. The process leading up to the painting often takes as long as the actual painting.
I really like the fact that you’re using the centre of the canvas only... I can imagine that your idea about how to define and fill space is something your art teachers at university weren’t too happy about, right?
Since painting was something that I began at the end of my studies, I don’t think my professors had a lot of time to develop a forceful criticism of my work. It’s perceptive that you mentioned the Theater of the Absurd because while I was at graduate school, my performance art and videos were both heavily influenced by the plays of Ionesco and Beckett, as well as the videos of The Wooster Group and William Wegman. My paintings came out of the performance work I was doing and came about rather abruptly. I think that my professors were just getting adjusted to my performance art when I dropped it and returned to painting.
I remember the criticism I received about my paintings; they dealt with the fact that I wasn’t very liberal with paint, and that I treated paint very preciously, reverently. It’s true.
all images courtesy
of Richard Heller Gallery