Portraits Manuel Solano
Peres Projects is pleased to announce Portraits, the first solo exhibition by Manuel Solano at the gallery.
The work of the Mexico-born artist finds spaces of ambiguity and duality for identity. Their practice, predominantly in portraiture, inserts and interprets the artist into depictions of characters from popular culture or figures from their childhood in order to explore the messiness and proximity of culture and selfhood.
For the exhibition, the artist has created a series of new works that continue their engagement with problems of identity and subjecthood. Solano has been working with new materials to develop these works – using oil pastels smudged with their fingers over an acrylic paint background, on canvas. They have also produced three new video self-portraits on the occasion of this exhibition.
The characters in Portraits do not figure under a unifying theme or have anything in common other than that they have struck the artist in one way or another. In this sense, the body of work produced for this exhibition demonstrates the conditional and relational nature of identity – that the subject is comprised of the many people in one’s life.
I have portrayed several people in this series who are close to me but whom I have never seen. Damien, for example. I met Damien at the opening of the first show I had after going blind, just a few months after I became blind. We became friends and I knew only vague basic details about his appearance. That he was a ginger, that he had muscles. I never wondered much about his appearance or gave it much thought back then. Then we spent some time apart when he moved back to the US, but later he came back to Mexico City for a short holiday.
Hanging out with him again, I realized how much I liked him and how much we seemed to enjoy each other’s company. I started noticing something else. When we were walking together, me taking his arm, I could feel and smell his breath close to me as we spoke. He was looking at me, turning towards me, during conversation. I guess that indicates or harbingers intimacy in a way. Then quickly, I realized something else, that I could tell by the sound of his voice when he was smiling. I think it was probably the first time since my blindness that I noticed this, that you can tell people are smiling or not by the sound of their voice. I started listening for his smile, and noticing his smile was frequently on his face.
I fell head over feet in love with him over the course of the three days that followed. Even now, years later, when I think about Damien, the image that comes to my mind is him smiling broadly and kindly. I found it very beautiful that I could know somebody’s smile without ever having seen it.
Someone I showed a photo of the portrait of Damien said he looks loved. In that sense at least, I guess I’m a better artist than Frida Kahlo, because looking at her portrait of Diego Rivera you wouldn’t feel like he was a particularly loved man.
I mean, it’s not like the sound of Damien’s voice is all I had for a reference to portray him. By now I’m very familiar with his facial hair or the shape of his nose, for instance. Or the gap between his front teeth. But I knew his smile and had a mental image of it long before I ever kissed him.
– Manuel Solano, 2019
Manuel SOLANO (b. 1987) studied at the National School of Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking in Mexico City. In 2013 Solano went blind due to complications related to an HIV-related infection. Since then, Solano has developed unique methodologies to continue an art practice which includes painting, video, and installation. Through their work, they explore the relationship between memory and identity, and balance the autobiographical with pop cultural imagery.
In 2019 Solano participated in a group exhibition entitled City Prince/sses at the Palais de Tokyo curated by Hugo Vitrani. Recent solo exhibitions include “I Don’t Wanna Wait For Our Lives To Be Over" at the ICA, Miami curated by Alex Gartenfeld and "PUNCHIS PUNCHIS PUNCHIS PUM PUM PUNCHIS PUNCHIS PUNCHIS” at the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil curated by Guillermo Santamarina in Mexico City. In 2018 Solano also participated in a group exhibition at Peres Projects as well as The New Museum Triennial in New York, co-curated by Gary Carrion-Murayari and Alex Gartenfeld.
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