By: Alyssa Laverda, Associate Director, Seraphin Gallery
Michel Delgado is the Romantic Rebel. A true artist, his breath and pursuit are fundamentally intertwined; they both exude a perspicacious passion for truth, the contemplative search into spirituality, and a bold exploration into the austere awareness of the human condition. Delgado draws from a well of personal life experiences that compound to express a visual representation of knowing and feeling: what is kept and what recedes into bygones. An untrained, therefore Outsider, artist and by definition a revolutionary, he has ignored the traditional practices of fine art and the confinements of art history in order to perform his requisite practice. Delgado intuitively surpasses the physical world into a field where metaphysical consciousness organically seeps out of primitive visual appearance.
The artist's canvases brim with symbolic features; nothing is misplaced or fortuitous. Although Delgado begins without composition in mind, allowing the figures and forms to become known to him, this journey of painting fathers sincere embodiments and leaves only the paramount. Sketched figures and numbers appear in the depths of his depictions-- ghostly apparitions of the past and the constant rhythmic beats of life. These elements are revived from his upbringing in Dakar, Senegal, in West Africa-- where instead of musical scores, children are taught drumming by numerical memorizations. Circular shapes as polka dots permeate his painting: representing the marks that are left from catalytic life experiences or events. These components integrate themselves within the works, becoming one with his figures and revealing their flaws-- their mistakes that may or may not have been learned from-- to the viewer.
Delgado's decades of virtuosity has led to inevitable differences in the tone of his works, either as a result of process or concept. Selections from his White Series, Colorful Series, and The Gum Spotting Experience (identified on page 16), are featured in this exhibition-- portraying a wide range from this artist's oeuvre. The White Series, named for the fluidity of milky paint that is categorically presented throughout these works, display dark bodies on stark backgrounds (sometimes rendered to the middle ground by Delgado's flow of splatter). In You Got To Hold On, (featured page 11), three figures-- possibly a family-- gather together each holding a burning flame. Their patterned clothing and vibrantly elaborate visages hint to devotional and ethereal beings that are both supernal and solid. Their lights are the manifestation of their individual spirits, the luminosity that shines from within. Delgado affirms that this brilliance does not fade when the mortal body does, asserting a canonical metaphor, yet perhaps in mindful secularity rather than to holy script.
Bleeding Too Soon (featured on the front cover of this catalogue and on page 8) and Between the Gap (featured page 26) are two works from the Colorful Series, which both present a wide spectrum of hues and tones exhibited in features and faces. The chaotic activity of Bleeding Too Soon, delivers the affect response when the ground collapses beneath-- when the essential part of oneself is torn and coping is slow to begin. Worry for the future, upcoming battles, and strife, enact a beautifully tortuous scene. Demonic traits and heavy black lines enforce unwilling participants in a struggle for space, attention, and vindication.
Between the Gap, a mixed media work on paper bag frame, is a confrontational portrait of wide inquisitive eyes, blood-red ears, and mouth. The paper bag is clearly defined as a Gap Inc. shopping bag, creating a play with the gap in the figure's front teeth. The use of this material recalls elements of the Pop Art movement of the 1960s, although in contrast, Delgado is not idolatrizing the branding, popularity, consumer affinity, or convenience of production. He manipulates this aspect of popular consumer culture to initiate a discourse concerning the "trap" of overseas manufacturing with unregulated labor, abuses regarding the hierarchies of capitalistic corporations, and the constructs of accessible conformity.
To place defining titles on Delgado's work is often contradictory, and lies within the liminal spaces between neatly denoted art historical boundaries. However, his work could be claimed as Art Brut, due to his raw, self taught style and implication. While his paintings are comprised of evidently primitive expression, the presentation of his work is sophisticated, clean-edged, and archival-- with sound attention to materials and techniques. His inventions encourage genuine responses from the viewer: soliciting the dissolve of pretense, the confession of personal evolution, and the realization of continued innocence.
This exhibition is made possible by Principal and Director, Anthony Seraphin, along with Director Lorraine Seraphin Rainey. They present this lone wolf's inaugural solo exhibition at Seraphin Gallery in Michel Delgado: Romantic Rebel from September 23 - November 6, 2016.