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Artist Okuda San Miguel Brings Debut Exhibition to L.A.

Spanish painter exhibits kaleidoscopic art and paints live mural in Los Angeles.

Erica Riveraby Erica Rivera

Madrid-based artist Okuda San Miguel brings his U.S. debut exhibition to the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles on April 1. His new series of synthetic on enamel paintings, sculptures, and tapestry is titled “Mayan Renaissance” and is a hallucinatory examination of humanity, history, and existentialism.

San Miguel’s work at once recalls ancient civilizations and futuristic societies, exuding both ominous and celebratory auras. His kaleidoscopic color schemes juxtapose with shades of gray and the rigid lines of geometric structures. While the animals he depicts are often headless, with humans, the faces are a central focus of his paintings.

“For me, it’s very important to represent faces,” the 36-year-old says, “but faces without eyes. I prefer to put a very deep universe inside the eyes.”

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In his mixed media work, San Miguel incorporates collage, embroidery, and wood into the canvas. In this collection, there are one or two paintings that could be interpreted as political commentary, an uncommon departure for the artist. “Normally I don’t use politics. I never see the news,” San Miguel says. “I think this time, or other times in the past, I decided to include politics or another iconic presence in my artwork because this moment, or the reality, says I have to. I think we have a very big problem with racism and freedom and I need to do it.”

Okuda San Miguel

Perhaps in defiance of that same current sociopolitical climate, San Miguel’s subjects do not blatantly belong to any particular race. “I paint my faces with geometric patterns to show equality among the different races, placing all skin types on the same level; multicolors symbolize multiculturalism.”

Also a large-scale street artist, San Miguel’s contemporary style has appeared on buildings, railroads, and antiquated factories. One of his best-known projects involved turning a 100-year-old abandoned church into a skate park known as Kaos Temple in Spain.

San Miguel has exhibited his pop surrealism fine art in galleries all over the world, from Japan to Peru to Mozambique. His upcoming show in Los Angeles marks his U.S. debut. In addition to the exhibition at the gallery, he will also paint a mural in L.A.

“I would like to tell you about that, but for the moment I have not seen the location, and I don’t know what mural I will paint,” he explains. “It always depends on the location because I never do sketches.” The mural, it seems, will be a spontaneous creation and a surprise to the artist and the viewer alike.

“Mayan Renaissance” opens on Sat., April 1 with a reception from 7 – 11 p.m. at the Corey Helford Gallery. The exhibition will be on view through April 29.