Miami-based artist Kiki Valdes takes you on a fantastical ride into his semi-abstract world at his eponymous exhibit Kiki Valdes on view at the Miami Dade Public Library System. Valdes is showcasing over twenty new paintings under MDPLS’ artist residency & exhibition program, an institution committed to supporting African-American, Latino and local artists. MDPLS previously worked with the late, great Purvis Young in the 1990s, Valdes succeeds him as the next artist in residence. The MDPLS, located in downtown Miami, has a rich history of fostering artistic talent and boasts an illustrious permanent art collection of almost 900 artists including Ed Ruscha, Jacob Lawrence, Carl Van Vechten, Ana Mendieta, Pablo Picasso and others. They have recently acquired numerous canvases by Valdes to include in their esteemed collection. Valdes was granted carte blanche access to MDPLS’ resources, and culled supplies from their art department, such as moving blankets, old house paint, donated canvases from the 1970s, and a plethora of other materials, etc These second-hand objects seemed to enhance the authenticity of the experience. The exhibition was conceived by in-house curator Oscar Fuentes, also known as the Biscayne Poet, who was instrumental in offering Valdes a solo show which evolved to include a residency as well.
Upon entering the show, the viewer is met with an explosive first impression, as Valdes effectively takes full command of the space. The large-scale works on display are bold and awe-inspiring, spanning both the main lobby and second floor of the library. Utilizing the third floor as a massive studio space to produce the paintings, he states, “It was beneficial to create large works, there was a lot of freedom within that”. In the exhibit Valdes delves into aspects of pop culture and American life declaring, “I wanted to use/create certain imagery that was very populist, and recognizable but still yet vague”. He also adds, “I wanted to address painting, where certain shapes and rhythms within the works could be a guiding light to where I want to go as an artist and as a painter”.
Valdes continues his use of nostalgic cartoon motifs while still exuding Abstract Expressionist and COBRA-esque tendencies. The show contains a mix of references to Francis Bacon, Willem DeKooning, and Walt Disney but is executed with Valdes’ singular style, which is both animated and vigorous. In ‘Wall Street Firecracker’, a movers blanket is re-purposed as a canvas, throbbing with a colorful intensity, the subject matter is perhaps a facetious ode to financial corruption. In another piece ‘Black Bullrider’, gutsy masculinity and power collide in a spirited composition. Valdes previously explored themes of male identity along with his Cuban roots, patrilineal honor and cowboy culture in his one man show ‘Riding Dualism’, held in late 2014 at The National Arts Club in New York City.
Valdes, a native Floridian, was born in 1981 and is a graduate of MICA with a BFA in Painting. Kiki Valdes will be on view through January 20, 2016 at the Miami Dade Public Library System. His upcoming show Kiki Valdes: Cartoons, Cowboys, Abstractions and More will open on February 13, 2016 at the Art and Culture Center in Hollywood, Florida.
Jasmin Hernandez is a New Yorker with a deep passion for visual culture and a rich background in fashion, editorial, and digital media. Ms. Hernandez is the founder of Gallery Gurls, where she covers the contemporary art world and also regularly writes about art & culture for numerous digital outlets. Visit jasminhernandez.com and gallerygurls.net. You may also follow on Instagram and Snapchat: @gallerygurls