Jorge Enrique’s work deconstructs the urban environment into layered surfaces, whose visible erasing, abrading, scraping and layering creates a complex physicality of decay, re-use, hidden images, and layers of meaning. Further investigating a “radicalized geometry,” Enrique constructs linear, sculptural forms in metal that snake through space with powerful unpredictability. Describing his work as “revved up minimalism,” Enrique is drawn to the intellectual sparseness of abstraction and conceptualism, and uses a wide range of media – drawing, painting, silkscreen, mono prints, and sculpture – to create surfaces that combine the purity of abstraction with the primal exuberance of saturated color, and flashes of metallic reflection.
London-based art critic Shana Mason writes in Wall Street International magazine (Nov. 2014): “Enrique engages angular gestures with more muted surface qualities than in his previous series. The sculptures of this [Architecture] series resemble bent lines, zigzagging through the air, and present a direct challenge to conventional architectures. Both anti-organic and anti-architectural structures, they are investigations into radicalized geometry; angles and permutations of linear space becoming less concrete constructions in non-linear space.”
The title When light appears is coming from a poem by Allen Ginsberg, a Beat Generation writer and major literature inspiration for the artist.
During months of lockdown, Jorge Enrique lived in his atelier surrounded by luxuriant vegetation, especially flowers, typical of the Florida tropical climate. He also questioned himself about its profound nature beyond its strict beauty.
After a while, the garden metaphorically became the entrance of his interior garden, a spirited place where shape occupies the place, moves, and grows into this place of pure thought.
The artist likes to quote Barnett Newman, who resonates in his practise with him especially with this extract from The sublime is now published in 1948: “We are freeing ourselves of the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, myth, or what have you, that have been the devices of Western European painting. Instead of making cathedrals out of Christ, man or ‘life,’ we are making it out of ourselves, out of our own feelings: “We are freeing ourselves of the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, myth, or what have you, that have been the devices of Western European painting. Instead of making cathedrals out of Christ, man or ‘life,’ we are making it out of ourselves, out of our own feelings”.
Paris, April 2022
“Writing is a form of editing in which several texts are combined and modified to form a single document. Often it is a method of collecting a series of writings on a similar theme and creating a definitive and cohesive work. ”
”Every something is an echo of nothing“
With this new series, I explore my understanding of what a painting should be and what should be done. What should this represent and why? These questions are central to my work.
Here, I reduce any form of knowledge that has governed my work in the last thirty years to its most primary form.
Direct in form, imbued with past experiences while admiring the colors of my current reality.
No excuses in this abstraction.
Simple and crude, mysterious and yet easily accessible thanks to its beauty.
In these paintings, no intention to dissect nature or even to represent it. It is rather a serious approach to the manifestation of nature in the hands of the artist as a factor of creative process.
“In the most recent works by Jorge Enrique, the idea of beauty is at the center of the artist’s practice. While Enrique’s artwork of the last two decades communicated the irony that minimalist and abstract works could actually represent the deconstruction of an unforgiving cacophanous urban environment, and the gritty “truth” of graffitied texts and images could not be trusted, beauty in Enrique’s work has always been present.
Inspired by such 20th century experimental pioneers as artists Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, and jazz musicians Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, Jorge Enrique challenges our understanding of art and the world. Drawn to the intellectual spareness of abstraction and conceptualism, Enrique nevertheless uses a wide range of media – drawing, painting, silkscreen, monoprints, layered lifted images, sculpture and installation. And Enrique’s practice is very much concerned with materials – shaping wood, sheet metal, paper, paint, epoxy, and resin into complex objects that undermine the ordinariness of their materials. These works are deliberate palimpsests – artworks whose history can be seen through the eroded exposure of under layers, visible by erasing, abrading, scraping and layering. The complex physicality of Enrique’s surfaces recalls ideas of age, decay, re-use, hidden images, and layers of meaning.
Enrique’s art both questions and embraces the theoretical dialogue of postmodernist works. His most recent works have a finished balance and a formalist elegance. With rigorous attention to line, symmetry, surface and texture, while experimenting with scale, serial repetition, color and reflection, these artworks encourage the viewer to revel in the layered, gestural complexity of paint and surface, the concept of beauty, the role of beauty in culture and society, and its presence in contemporary art.
Enrique’s series “Metallica” blurs the distinction between image and object, and between painting and sculpture. Rather than mere “pretty pictures,” Enrique’s paintings and sculptures are the culmination of decades of making art about ideas. They are part of Enrique’s art history – steps along a trajectory from conceptual projects and text-object works to paintings that resonate as culturally loaded signs. The scumbled, polished complexity of Enrique’s paintings and the linear, snaking nature of his sculptures set up a tension between object and void. Their repetition when installed in groups owes much to the influence of minimalist work from a half century ago.
These works explore the synthesis of opposites: controlled and spontaneous, rational and intuitive, represented and real, truth and fiction, permanent and ephemeral. They combine the purity of abstract visual experience with the primal exuberance of saturated color, glass-like glimmering surfaces, and flashes of metallic reflection. For all their beauty – whether deeply subsumed, layered and abraded paintings or twisting, attenuated painted sculptures – these artworks offer the viewer more than meets the eye.
Jorge Enrique’s works take the viewer into a swirling metallic maelstrom: a state of romanticism and indulgence. Their jewel-like colors, exuberant textures, and reflective metallic surfaces combine to create a visual complexity further enhanced by enigmatic titles such as “Metallica (Interlude),” “Farewell Minotaur,” and “Labyrinth.” For both the viewer and artist, they are a new and beautiful way of seeing.”
Art historian, writer and independent curator active in South Florida for more than 30 years as a museum curator, administrator and lecturer. A Detroit, Michigan native, Ms. Blazier served as Executive Director and Curator at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, Florida 1979-1995 and as Senior Curator at the Boca Raton Museum of Art 2001-2012
Tearing down the veil of the urban culture is Jorge Enrique’s leitmotiv. The Cuban-born American artist resembles the contrasted city which has been inspiring him for almost twenty years: Miami. A true gateway of the Americas.
Borne by the urban feel of the multicoloured metropolis, he has built a protean body of work beginning with Traffic, Numbers and continuing on with Low Ride and Urban D-Construction. In the studio, the artist is inspired by the souvenirs of the asphalt and the Wynwood walls, covered with graffitis. For him, it is all about capturing the urban tension and then rendering his own recomposed vision. Considering himself to be a multimedia artist and often blurs the lines between painting, sculpture, print-making and photography.
The trace is a theme at the very core of Jorge Enrique’s work, especially in his Hybrid series. An archeologist of urbanity, he relentlessly searches for traces of the human and industrial activity. He aims to imprint the effervescence of the city onto the surface of the paper and then to freeze the layers of ingredients in the resin. The works become totems, holding the urban memory: the pallet of colours, limited yet intense, as well as the glossy surface allow the viewer to become virtually lost in the magnificence of the work.
Fragmenting urban elements derives from the intention to isolate them in order to render a renewed reality.
Hybrid imposes its difference through the choice of forms, motifs, colours and gives birth to a singular urban jungle.
André Parinaud (1924-2006)
Journalist and art critic
In these new works the images are the result of a new order created by re-assembling my everyday visual reality – markings and urban landscapes that surround me.
I went to the streets of Wynwood neighbourhood and pulled images directly from there, and later returned to the studio to tear and reassemble them in search of a new essence, and perhaps a new understanding.
Deconstructing these images has lead me to a new visual order, a place to explore, and a new home to dwell.
Colourwise I continue to explore a sort of rev-up, yet very controlled pallet, minimal in colour and very rich in tonalities. Here the narrative reveals itself as a series of strips of data, a film made up of all of the thousands of bits of information and images and objects that surround us and we are forced to process and discard daily, a statement about our times and the places we live in, as well as an invitation to look at our surroundings in a entirely new way.
Miami, July 2009
To account for the various activities of the urban world, especially all the banal or repetitive contemporary culture (from the position of his body to the detail of his hairstyle or the location of his name on the pay sheet), is a theme recurrent in the plastic arts. In this field, radical changes have emerged over the last century from Marcel Duchamp’s “ready-made” to the official recognition of photography as a convincing aesthetic medium. Artists have injected everyday elements into their work beyond even criticism or mere observation. Jorge Enrique, in three recent series, “Numbers”, “Urban D Construction” and “Low Ride”, experiments the confrontation of archaic forms of culture (totems, petrified substances) with all the symbols of our urban jungle (fiberglass , steel and other manufactured materials).
Enrique was born in Havana in 1960 and began his studies at the Alfred Glassel School of Art in Houston, Texas, in 1991. His first exhibitions, in Houston and Miami where he lives, were devoted to compositions in which raw color was expressed through paintings highly influenced by geometric abstraction. In three decades of research and experimentation with different creative formats (sculpture, installation or simple frames hung on the walls), Enrique has shaken the boundaries of traditional representation. According to him, it is about “tearing the veil of urban culture” to literally get to the street level.
A subculture of ‘lowriders’ formed specifically within the Chicano and, less prominently, the Asian-American community; each customized car was a reflection of a certain social network, associated with particular styles of music, fashion and visual art. Jorge Enrique locates the aesthetic markers of these subcultures through a subtle reinvention of the same paint materials used to adorn the ‘lowriders’ commonly seen throughout the urban landscape in Miami, in this instance. The organic, smoothly shaped bulges from flat squares of glittering fiberglass paint appear to evoke natural organs versus a mechanistic byproduct. While indications of the scope of the ‘lowrider’ culture may be alien to most viewers (wet t-shirt and bikini contests, barbecues and ‘dancing’ contests are not even remotely hinted), the industrial elements and structural format of the works cross over into international automotive and applied design arenas. As in his ‘Numbers’ and ‘Urban D-construction’ series, ‘Low Ride’ maintains a continuous dialogue between the natural world and the technological world, in such a way as to uphold the ambiguity of its critical genesis. It is clear that the bulbous projections are produced with factory-grade precision, obscuring immediate possibilities of comparison with a natural element. Yet, the issue of ‘subjectivity’ within the machine is another hallmark of Enrique’s work.
Academically celebrated artists of the Modern art historical canon (Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, Yves Klein, Joseph Beuys, Matthew Barney and Rebecca Horn are exemplars) have experimented with the ‘sentient machine’ theory with an overwhelming number of methodologies and critical approaches within the last century, especially following the World Wars. Focusing on technology and urban subcultural modes to inform the finished aesthetic product, Jorge Enrique offers a specific perspective on the dizzying shifts between man and machine. Petrifying that mathematically-driven, breakneck pace in totem poles in ‘Numbers’, elevating those systems with the city’s grit in ‘Urban D-construction’, and projecting its progress as illuminated by a distinctive American subculture in ‘Low Ride’, Enrique’s artistic development displays noted signs of an artistic practice informed by accepted contemporary artistic movements, and simultaneously rewarded with a degree of poignant storytelling relaying his own background and social influences. Numbers, the street and machines: in color.
Transformed into silkscreens and imprisoned by the resin, they combine the traces of the urban environment and the distant echo of the streets and their occupants. These works, cast in the conservative lacquer, vibrate with this mixture of colors: those of painting and those of the street.
After “Urban D-Construction”, the series “Low Ride” is intended as a tangible bridge between the Conceptual, the Pop and the Installation Art.
This cultural “quirk” from the automotive world, commonly called “Low Riding” has its origins in custom cars of the late 60, when the industrial production system of brands like Ford, GM and Buick has grown. The end of the 70 years has seen the appearance of incredible cars, with senseless hydraulic suspensions and manipulated by a simple technical flick!
In this “Low Riders” culture, which has developed mainly in the chicano and, to a lesser extent, Asian American communities, each car bears the social stigma with its particular style of music, fashion and of visual art. Jorge Enrique places the aesthetic sliders of these subcultures in Miami’s urban landscape, in a subtle reappropriation of the same painting processes.
The almost organic aspect of the “spheres” that he places on painted and metallized fiberglass plates seems to evoke organs facing highly manufactured by-products. If the “Low Rider” culture may be foreign to most people (with the exception of wet T-shirt or bikini contests, barbecues and other dance contests…) the industrial elements and the form of the works go far beyond its limits to contribute to the reflection on international automotive design. As in its previous series, the “Low Ride” series maintains an ongoing dialogue between the natural world and the technological world, in a way that permanently retains the ambiguity of its own critical genesis. It is clear that these works are produced with machine precision without any connection to natural elements. However, this question of the “subjectivity” of the mechanical aspect of things remains
an essential point of Enrique’s work.
In the last century, the artists celebrated on the altar of modern art (Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, Yves Klein, Joseph Beuys, Matthew Barney and Rebecca Horn …) have experimented the “sensible” with an incalculable number of methods and critical approaches, especially after the world wars. Focusing on the relationship between technology and urban subcultures, Jorge Enrique gives us another perspective on the vertigo engendered by this relationship Man / Machine. Thus, from the frenzied rhythm mathematically set in motion in the totems of the series “Numbers”, to the confrontation with the world of the street and its “stigmata” with “Urban D-construction”, he crossed a new stage with “Low Ride By radiating his work from a typically American subculture.
The artistic evolution of Jorge Enrique is at the same time a practice nourished by contemporary artistic movements and by a narrative that is anchored in his own experience and his social influences.
Numbers, machines, the street: all, in color.
Shana Beth Mason
University of Glasgow (Christie’s Education, London)