Interview: Héctor Rafael
Luca Curci talks with Héctor Rafael during ALCHEMIC BODY at THE LINE Contemporary Art Space.
Painter and educator. Born of Puerto Rican parents in Santiago de Compostela, Spain and raised in Puerto Rico. The artist has a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Painting from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University and a Master of Art Education from Universidad del Turabo. In 2019 Héctor Rafael was recognized for his artistic merit with the International Prize Botticelli at the Borghese Palace in Florence, Italy. He also received the International Prize Diego Velázquez during the Barcelona Biennial at the Museu Europeu d’Art Modern (MEAM) in Barcelona, Spain and the International Prize Artist of the Year 2019 at Teatro Sociale di Mantova in Mantua, Italy. His paintings have been included in exhibitions in Puerto Rico, New York, Miami, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Istanbul (Turkey), London (United Kingdom), Barcelona (Spain), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), Lisbon (Portugal), Florence, Mantua and Venice (Italy). The artist’s work is part of prestigious private and public collections including Museo de Arte de Caguas, Museo de Arte Francisco Oller and the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance (PRAA) in Chicago.
Luca Curci – What are you currently working on?
Héctor Rafael – I have been working on paintings that play with perception and preconceived ideas of the male and female form. They are images in which I deconstruct and reconstruct the human body as a way of redefining masculinity and femininity. My most recent paintings explore how our views of gender and sexuality are changing. Right now, my new paintings focus on the male figure, questioning masculinity as a social construct and confronting the spectator with homoerotic compositions. I believe that my work of art promotes equity and functions as a hopeful invitation to inclusive and harmonious coexistence.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
HR – I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Major in Painting from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University and a Master of Art Education from Universidad del Turabo. Right out of college I worked at Christie’s New York for several departments as an Art Handler and Cataloguer. I spent four years in the Latin American Art Department at Christie’s and three years in the Nineteen Century European Art, Maritime and Sporting Art departments at Christie’s East. I had the opportunity to study firsthand the work of some of the greatest artists in the history of art. This changed not only the way I paint but also my understanding of a part of the art industry that most artists don’t have access to. In the last twenty-five years, I have been working as a professional artist showing my paintings in art galleries and museums. I had the opportunity to show my work in different parts of the world and meet interesting artists and art lovers from different cultures. I believe that these experiences have made me grow as both an artist and as a person.
LC – Which is the role the artist plays in the society? And contemporary art?
HR – In many ways, artists continue to document the time they live in and at the same time alter the way people from their generation see the world.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
HR – It is difficult being an artist at a time when we seem to have been pushed to the bottom of the food chain of the art world. Sometimes it feels as if the system is trying to filter our voice to the point that it supports the interests of its institutions. Also, the instability in the economy and the uncertainty in which we live in have made it hard on most artists to make a living out of their work. On the other hand, things are much better when it comes to sharing our work with the world. The internet has made it easier to promote our artwork and exhibitions. It has freed artists of depending on newspapers, magazines, radio or television to get our voice out there. It is still wonderful when an exhibition is supported by the media and press releases are published but it is not the only way to inform the public on what is happening.
LC – Do visitors’ suggestions enrich yourself and your art?
HR – Visitors’ opinions help us see our work from different points of view which can be helpful for the artist. Sometimes it unveils aspects that come from our subconscious and that we still were not aware of.
LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the festival or as a part of preexisting works?
HR – It is part of preexisting works. I painted “Entrelazados” in the first few months of 2019. When I read the theme of Alchemic Body, I thought there was a connection between the two and that it was perfect for the festival.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the festival’s theme?
HR – Part of the festival’s theme dealt with the human body as a changing system that connects us with other bodies and spaces to perceive our reality. My painting “Entrelazados” depicts a deep spiritual and physical connection between two men that is kept away from society. The bodies are deconstructed and reconstructed to form a cocoon that protects them. These forms expand out into the edges of the canvas and connect the figures to our world. As the spectators look into this intimate mindscape, they discover the eye of the artist returning their gaze. In this painting, I use anatomical deconstruction to play with the spectator’s perception of the male form and redefine masculinity. It also presents the body as a way to hide or reveal the truth, to isolate or connect with the world.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
HR – ITSLIQUID is a great platform that keeps their followers informed about new tendencies in art, architecture, design and fashion around the world. It also organizes interesting international exhibitions of contemporary artists in the most interesting venues.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
HR – Yes, I do. ITSLIQUID provide artists with the opportunity to show their work internationally. It unites artist from different cultures and creates a space where they can share their work with each other and the public.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
HR – Yes, I did. It is always a pleasure collaborating with you.