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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Monique Prieto’s talk – UCSD

Monique Prieto, Bells, 2005, acrylic on canvas, 30" x 40"

Tonight I went to the Monique Prieto talk at UCSD. Her work is part of the exhibition “In the Beginning” at the UCSD gallery. I saw the exhibition a few days ago.

Monique Prieto was calm and attentive, soft spoken and smiley. She was speaking without preaching or teaching or anything like that. It seems to me she was herself, sharing what she can tell about her experience.

She talked while showing photos of her work on a large screen. She graduated in L.A., in 1994, the year of the big earthquake. She was - and still is - a painter. At the time she graduated the question was “why an artist today would use such an archaic technique?” She was not interested in “Identity art” although her background is Hispanic, but she was committed to continue painting. And she was suddenly interested by introducing humor in her work. She was recognizing where painting was coming from, but she wanted to introduce some lightness since the weight of the history of painting is so heavy. She painted without any brush marks. It was forms and colors on canvas.

She talked with humor about the fact that at that time she was having her first baby and did not have much time in her studio. Her husband told her to work on the computer to prepare some work. It happened to be a great idea: she could nurse and prepare her paintings on the computer at the same time. That series uses metaphors to express relations between people or between objects, like in “Pedestrian”, “My asthma”, “Love Think”, Warm Body”, “Over again”. She used every day life scenarios around the house or events around the world.

In September 2001, her interest shifted. Because of the events she gave herself some time to digest the past 10 years of her work. She spent a lot of time with friends in the street protesting. She started to sketch small black and white drawings. She did not make any commitment, did not participate in any show and did not show her work to anybody for two years.

She travelled to Europe, saw a lot of paintings “for real” for the first time and was really thrilled. That was an opening: there was still a lot to do with painting.

But after two years, she felt she did not get anywhere with her work and was terrified. At the same time she was not going back to her “old” work - there was no turning back. Then something happened. She was driving on a highway in a slow traffic. She saw on a wall a graffiti which struck her: it was blockish, very particular. Back at her studio she started to work with words. At the time there were plenty of billboards shouting “United we stand”, big words were everywhere. She also had a graphic design background and never thought that graphic design and painting were exclusive. Using words was totally making sense for her and she decided to work with the first diary ever printed: the one of Samuel Pepys. She used Pepys’s diary because she did not want to make confessional paintings (although the quotes she uses are quite mysterious and ambiguous and they don’t tell much about Pepys’s life).

She did not work again with the computer. She picks up a quote she likes and starts a painting right away, without any sketches. Although the space of her series of work seems very structured she says she sometimes loses complete control and she likes it a lot, it is like in real life. “Because it was quiet”, Mad in Love”, “And Everything Else” are part of the series she is still working on today.

The talk was interesting, I had a great time!

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