The sky covering Paris is an endless dull grey, as if colour has been sucked out of the city. But peering through the windows of the Inception Gallery in the Marais is enough to give you that boost of colour you need, thanks to Mexican artist Armando Romero’s latest exhibition “Les Faceties d’Armando Romero“.
Born in 1964, Romero was a student and then a teacher of sculpture, painting and art history in Mexico City, and was his country’s representative to the Emerging Artists of Latin America in France in 1998. His highly successful show ‘XX Century Parade’ in 2009 took place in three different cities simultaneously – New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles, no doubt reaching a wider audience and earning him a cult following.
In architecture, the term ‘neo-eclectic’ means a combination of decorative techniques from different historical styles. So it makes sense that Romero is hailed as a neo-eclectic artist. His works are an exploration of the past and present, drawing inspiration from a vast repertoire of influences. Caravaggio, Rembrandt, or Goya-inspired paintings are fused with a healthy dose of pop culture references like the Smurfs or Porky Pig. Comic book characters and superheroes are given the same importance as historical figures in each tableau. Highbrow and lowbrow art intersect in his canvases without overstepping the boundaries to silliness.
The results are cheeky, yet they work so well together. “Futuristic Architects”, where a group of men are in the midst of an architectural plan presentation against a backdrop of scaffolding, is something that could very well be hanging in the Louvre, if not for the bright blue Goodyear blimp sailing through the sombre sky and the colourful pink thought bubble of a castle with the word ‘Disneyland’ emblazoned across it (an ironic stab at commercialism, perhaps?).
In “The Collector”, the seriousness of this portrait of a cross-legged man is offset by Batman figures, retro robots, a T-Rex and a row of Barbie dolls littered all over the canvas. Characters from different eras stare out at you solemnly in “Familiar Faces”, joined by a group of Smurfs marching across the table and childlike caricatures.
Romero certainly has a knack for combining cultures and clashing centuries, leaving everything open to interpretation. And the power to interpret the playful and serious feelings his paintings stir up in us is slightly unsettling. But as I push the door to exit the gallery and throw back one last glance at his works, they silently scream at me to not take life so seriously, dammit.
So I don’t.