June 23 - August 18, 2023
Corbett vs. Dempsey proudly presents The Flood, an exhibition of new paintings by Omar Velázquez. This is the artist’s second show with the gallery.
The vivid paintings of Puerto Rican artist Omar Velázquez (b. 1984) inhabit an intense, psychological space. A panoply of loaded images—mixing environmental, political, spiritual, and historical dimensions—bristle with information yet retain a latent aura of mystery. As with past work, in which objects and animals have figured prominently, Velázquez’s new body of larger-scale canvases expands the range of birds and reptiles to include a veritable herd of horses. These are not heroic stallions or idealized equestrian icons; they are weary, malnourished, and overburdened, showing the stress of life in a supposedly idyllic land. Underneath sumptuous paint application and brilliant use of color, Velázquez submerges a vast network of allusions. Faces appear on the surface of stones like codes or secrets—runes or mere graffiti. Stacks of wildlife, rocks, and various articles resemble talismanic sculptures or cairns: one canvas features a white horse saddled by a live alligator and portable speakers. The biblical idea of the flood is at the core of Velázquez’s supercharged scenes in which calm messengers portend ominous signs; flooding is also a real fear for contemporary society, particularly for an island like Puerto Rico. Water is present in every painting, akin to a constant mental state for the artist: “Being an islander, there is always water,” he says. “Our borders are made of water. But it’s not the same water in every case.” From ocean blue to mud brown, these diluvial images hearken to recent environmental catastrophes on the island, such as Hurricanes Maria and Fiona, as well as a sequence of recent earthquakes. Velázquez presents a deluge of contradictions: fire blazes on an island paradise; ubiquitous water is nowhere to be found; and a fossilized turtle balances a stone and vulture on its carapace like a totem of eternity. Things, ever-changing, remain stubbornly the same.
Omar Velázquez received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2020-21), and has had one-person shows at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (2015), and the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, Chicago (2013).