ArtNexus / Ricardo Maffei / Diana Marcela Cardenas

Issue #80 Mar – May 2011
United States, New York
Institution: Marlborough Gallery.

One year and a half of contemplation by Chilean artist Ricardo Maffei led to an exhibition of about twenty works that were presented in 2010 at the Marlborough Gallery in New York.
In a sober and restrained manner, without neglecting his close connection to the academic influences of realist masters like Velazquez, Maffei presents a series of realist images that contain fragments of the essence of nature; an essence that both the mind and the gaze accept as equivalent to that which is experienced in reality. The works consist of a series of still lifes that transcend narratives through the effective strength of their visual components.
Relying on elements as subtle as the materiality of the bodies, the physical properties of the objects, the handling of light, and the passing of time, Maffei creates scenographies in his studio with a minimum amount of elements¿such as superimposed fabrics or cloths over brilliant surfaces placed beside a glass of water¿that emphasize the details of reality; the folds rendered through the horizontal and vertical interactions, lights, reflections, and shadows that achieve illusory contrasts between materials¿rendered with tones and subtleties. Maffei methodically paints according to the light changes. It is a process that results in a group of works that not only are impressive for their impeccable technique, but also because of their effectiveness in seducing and challenging spectators to ponder about the act of observing and understanding the work.
Maffei¿s work on canvas can achieve a realist and abstract effect at the same time. The gaze of this Chilean artist goes beyond earthy appearances, as he is able to capture the essence of inanimate objects by relying, for instance, in the use of specific colors¿an important element in the development of his work. His oil on canvas or pastel on paper images are characterized for the use of matched color combinations that, for instance, set chromatic colorations like yellow against violet. The exhibition puts in evidence his preoccupation for a visual solidity, a definition of the volumes and just the right kind of composition; a deliberated approach conveyed by the precision of every brushstroke. The paintings share subtly insinuating backgrounds that are, at the same time, undecipherable as signs, lines, and stains that create certain instability in terms of the reality of the main object, like the fabrics.
The exhibition plays with the perception of the minds and of the senses, with the surreal and the palpable, in an attempt to capture the ephemeral and the mutable properties of nature. To Maffei, the real in his works is associated with the imagination and live experiences of each individual with regard to the exploration of the body. Such approach makes him part of a select group of artists dedicated to realist painting that fulfill the demands of contemporary art.
Through the works he created in 2010, Maffei not only is able to achieve a faithful rendition of a recognizable reality, but he is capable as well of transcending it with small and subtle insinuations. The paintings in this exhibition are characterized for the simplicity of compositions that focus on a few elements and, in some cases, in environments with only one plane. The result is a visual universe that emerges from the tactile.