William Braemer

 

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WILLIAM BRAEMER Catalog editing Studio Abba: Vito Abba, Carlotta Marzaioli Critical essay Giampaolo Trotta Translation by Lara Cox www.traduzioni-firenze.com Photography of William Braemer Artwork by Roberto Ojeda © 2016 Art Fusion Galleries www.artfusiongalleries.com © 2016 Studio Abba www.studioabba.com Reproduction and diffusion of this catalog or any part of it by electronic storage, hard copies, or any other means, are prohibited unless a written consent is obtained from the copyright holders.

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"William Braemer is an artist who, in his many paintings and sculptures poetically and intellectually draws on his Cuban-American and European cultural roots."

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‘BEING SINGULAR-PLURAL’ - THE AMERICAN AND EUROPEAN CULTURAL ECHOES IN WILLIAM BRAEMER'S ARTISTIC EXPRESSION GIAMPAOLO TROTTA To talk correctly about William Braemer’s artistic production, I believe one should start from what he says about himself: “I like to define my artistic style as Abstract in Nature, coupled with an expressionist quality [...]. My art is my eyes looking into my soul.” This quotation encapsulates the characteristics of his painting: above all abstraction, but an abstraction that comes entirely from the observation of nature, experienced and lived in a deeply emotional way and therefore, from within. His forms–not forms represent the very essence of nature and, combined with a masterful and violently determined use of color (in this, one sees his Cuban upbringing), it reveals both an extrapolation and a synthesis of this natural world and therefore a reminder of both informal lyricism and abstract expressionism, whilst ever-mindful of the chromatic ‘stains’ of European Impressionism (see Field of Flowers on p. 59 or Spring Bouquet, p. 42, to name just two). It is no coincidence that I speak of “Abstract Expressionism”, a definition which, as the reader will recall, we owe to Alfred Barr, who conceived this term back in 1919 when discussing Kandinsky. Indeed, we witness in Braemer’s art a successful combination of emotional intensity with an anti-figurative aesthetic. We can certainly see a reference to the painters working in the bewitching ambiguity of the New York art scene in the period immediately after World War II, where there were ‘energetic’ components (Pollock), strongly colorful aspects and chromatic monolithics (Rothko) and sometimes, melancholic elements in search of a ‘nourishment’ of values (William Grosvenor Congdon). The predilection for large canvases, the immediate and spontaneous assertion of his individuality through the creative act of painting, the attention to the very action of this painting, the emphasis on textural surfaces and sometimes the compact Rothko-like color (Parallel Worlds, p. 84), the ‘global’ approach where every area of the canvas is treated in the same manner, the direct expression of his own unconscious life through an extreme research for color, an audacious palette of color that creates unreal and timeless atmospheres (sometimes with a veiled harmony obtained by combining shades that are very near to each other), the search for meaning in a varied range of abstract shapes, are just some of the characteristics of Braemer’s painting. Our artist is detached from the world to create an expression of an individual universe, whilst remaining connected to others and nature. The paintings do not seem to originate from an idea a priori, but rather from an apparently random process, the result of which one can only define a posteriori, as a photograph of sensitivity. In other words, by using various methods he searches for a form capable of expressing both his individual character and a universal content, which he also does – as we shall see later - in his sculptures, in a more figurative way. 6

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Starting from the substrate of lush colors of the tropics, and in particular from his experiences in Cuba, in Miami and the USA and those acquired in Europe above all in Italy, where he lived for a period of time in his youth, he refines his abstract-lyrical vision of art to reach a personal identification of form and color. Undoubtedly we can find influences of Cezanne, Matisse and Monet in William’s art and his work can also be compared to that of Giuseppe De Gregorio and, particularly of Antonio Corpora and his style of ‘informale naturale’. Clearly, their informal pursuit of finding ways to suggest nature was conducted through entirely different experiences and cultural backgrounds, but their interest in it is certainly an aspect that Braemer and Corpora have in common. William Braemer’s painting is not banally naturalistic, but represents a study of the form that, in a certain way, recuperates a 'biological' or 'floral' vision, referring to the educational processes of nature itself, its vital dynamism, the growth of living organisms and the spaces of natural environments as seen under a microscope, or - on the contrary - through a telescope, rather than trying to ‘copy’ slavishly nature in its reality. Braemer has perfectly understood the lesson of the historical avant-garde artists who, by breaking with realism and naturalism, transformed art - as was finely described by the art historian Filiberto Menna (1926-1988) - from a research on the language of nature to one on the nature of language. In his paintings, made of color sensations, William challenges the Euclidean space and Newtonian time in favor of an anti-prospective and timeless space, all directly internalized and externalized on the canvas. The post-Cubist and post-Futurist visions are the results of a progressive move away from a supposedly objective reality, which can be seen in Braemer’s increasingly radical developments and in his absolutely extreme modernity. Influenced - more or less directly – by the Italian Arte Informale movement, William has favored a more poetic journey, and by experimenting with new forms, does not totally renounce the 'natural' pre-existences, but rather intensifies their associations and relationships. There is no dialectic or confrontation between past and present, but a continuity that enables him to internalize consciousness through perception thus making the sensibility of who is working (the artist) and who observes (the viewer) more receptive. Appropriate too for Braemer is a citation by Lionello Venturi1 (1885-1961) when he wrote about the well-known Italian group called Gruppo degli Otto: “they are not and do not want to be abstract artists; they are not and do not want to be realists [...]. If they feel the pleasure of a precious material, of a lyrical agreement of color, a tone effect, they do not renounce it. They are not Puritans in art like abstract artists: they accept inspiration in any occasion and do not dream of denying it”. Thus Braemer too, does not reject his relationship with nature and with his inner sense, yet he demonstrates a control in his art that is in some way, informale. __________________________________ 1Lionello Venturi, Otto pittori italiani, De Luca Editore, Rome, 1952 7

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In some works by Braemer one is more specifically reminded of the exotically chromatic ‘hallucinations’ of Paul Gauguin, enthusiast of the Tropics, and of Claude Monet’s aquatic dream made up of floating lilies and water lilies and reduced by our artist to textural and informal masses of pigment on the canvas (Water Lilies, p. 89; Reminiscing Monet, p. 64). Like Gauguin, William wants to “do simple art” and “to be able to do that, I have to immerse myself in virgin nature, see no one but savages, live their life, with no other thought in mind but to render, the way a child would, the concepts formed in my brain and to do this with the aid of nothing but the primitive means of art, the only means that are good and true”2. In this way, William’s art becomes art of the soul. And just as for Gauguin, the flat surfaces and the sinuous outlines are highlighted by bright colors. To paraphrase a passage from Proust on Monet in À la recherche du temps perdu, the color that Braemer creates to suggest the floral masses are “more precious, more moving than their own [...], ceaselessly changing yet remaining always in harmony [...] with all that is most profound, most evanescent, most mysterious — all that is infinite — in the passing hour, it seemed to have made them blossom in the sky itself”3 - or in the depths of the abyss. Thus this multi-faceted artist, bases his pictorial research on color as a primary, unique and unmistakable element, which marks the pictorial and creative act itself: the chromaticism is an irrepressible pictorial vibration of the soul. The images slowly and naturally emerge from the chromatic impression that comes directly from within; as ‘prisoners’ to matter and color, they free themselves, aroused by the unconscious and self-conscious rationality, they offer a ‘glimpse’ of heavens and lands, forests and figures. William’s art is not just pure aesthetic or contemplation of Beauty, but a ‘medicine’ that ‘heals’ inner wounds, which assists us in knowing ourselves better. The figures emerge and arise from the clotted color to float lightly in the ethereal world like an ectoplasm (Rumba with You, p. 46-47), in a dance full of dynamic futuristic flavor. Dominant colors are the absolute lords of the compositions, such as the vital and passionate red pierced by the yellow light (Ambrosia, p. 75 and Seduction p. 100-101), orange with an expressionist black line drawing synthetic figures that reminds one enigmatically of De Chirico (A Magical Day, p. 58), the green of the fluvial nature reminiscent of Ennio Morlotti (A Walk on the Seine III, p. 78-79) and the purple shades of the secular but spiritual Ascension (p. 74). Just like darts of a flame, these paintings ‘pierce’ the heart and mind and arouse deep emotions in us, which envelop the viewer entirely with their silent presences of the blue of ‘inner skies’, in a Platonic journey of the soul, in which our spirit explodes like “thunders of white silence”, as the English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote. __________________________________ 2Quoted in the interview 'Paul Gauguin Discussing His Paintings', Jules Huret, printed in L'Écho de Paris, (23 February 1891) p. 48 3Excerpt from Proust In Search of Lost Time, Vol. 1, p. 240. translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and T. Kilmartin, Modern Library Edition, New York, 1992 8

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Reference to classical geometric Abstraction, to the uniform grids of a chessboard that become an urban plan of interior islands, insulae of the soul and psyche that light up in the pictorial diversity of the single square ‘cells’, with certain chromatic references in the reflectivity and luminosity of Optical Art, can be seen in works such as Miami Gems Series (p. 52) or Aquamarine (p. 45), where one can find introflexions and extroflexions of the individual squares, full of kinetic dynamism thanks to the changes in reflected light. Certain patterns are conceptually related to French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy’s ideas that I cite below, but here, above all, they are connected to the pictorial universe of the Hungarian abstract painter Simon Hantaï, with his serigraphs (Tabulas) made between 1972 and 1976. The haunting, timeless, elegiac and ‘mythically’ symbolic and iconic (semiotic) vision of the figuration is, however, better reflected in William’s sculptural work that reveals a clearly-manifested metaphorical journey. I refer predominantly to bodies - or rather fragments or sections of human bodies - seen as headless or archaeological finds of the future. A post-modern vision that reuses the classic tradition and innovates it, where the conceptual and ‘ethical’ components of art no longer disown the ‘aesthetic’ value, as in the twentieth century avant-gardes. Male and female headless and limbless torsos (Twiggie III, p. 14; Bombshell, p. 35) or lifesize figures – lying down or looking-on – are presented with featureless faces, like fashion mannequins or like De Chirico’s and Annigoni’s metaphysical figures. They are not painted but modeled in their three-dimensionality and then dressed with a new ‘skin’ made of American or Canadian coins. They are mysterious, statuesque and mighty as if from antiquity or with their simplifications, from pre-war twentieth century classicism. However they also - and above all - ironically refer to today’s fashion and film role models and the obsession with beauty. Their iron ‘armor’ makes them also seem like underwater archeological finds (Aphrodite, p. 31; Zeus, p. 18; Narcissus and Mia, both p. 36), bronze young warriors of Riace, heroes and Greek Olympian deities. Yet they are brought into the contemporary world and ‘encrusted’ with modernity, being linked to the perverse logic of the economy and to salaries, the obsession of consumerism, of the GDP and the spread. Sculptures that also recuperate the neo-Dadaist realism of everyday objects - coins to bargain, buy and sell – following the traditions of the European Nouveau Réalisme (in particular Arman and Yves Klein), as well as American Pop Art. Sculptures with a metal skin - like reptiles in a futuristic sci-fi world of Visitors - recall genetic mutations and the ambiguity and identity of contemporary man. A very personal research that starts from a certain view of the world and life, based on the comparison of free will with the predestination of events and the consequential risk of reducing man to a mere automaton, a biological computer in a globalized world. The expressiveness of the subjects is - as mentioned above - absent, canceled by a search crystallized in time and conditioned by a consumer world. 9

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Humanity in constant metamorphosis, where the denial of free will (voided by the world of false advertising and ephemeral production of disposable objects) represents just the first 'skin' of an evolution-degeneration in permanent evolution, icy in its blazing but illusory 'crust’. The scaly 'membrane' of the coins, the 'cloak' that seems to envelop these robot-like figures makes them change constantly under the glittering light that hits them (symbolically on the exterior), enriching the figures with meanings and metaphors. The encrustation of bronze, silver or gold coins signifies our being as both a singular and plural entity at the same time. This is in accordance with the ideas of the afore mentioned philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy “being singular-plural means the essence of Being is only as co-essence”4 and has already influenced many other artists from Claudio Parmiggiani to the previously-cited artist Simon Hantaï, to the Italian, Rabarama. The serial nature of the coins – all identical but in their varied ‘fish-scale-like’ assemblage (fish being primordial marine beings and at the source of the human evolution) defines the very individuality of the figures - is in a certain sense, like seeing the genome, the infinite combinations and possible varieties inherent in humanity, and, in the case of William’s sculptures, displayed in the wavy geometric mazes of circles placed over the very coins, in which the multifaceted complexity of ‘Me’ materializes. A separate and final note is necessary for another series of sculptures, still made up of anatomical fragments, such as busts and legs, but covered in a phantasmagorical manner in a multiplicity of small, colored objects. The colors are festively tropical, alive, decisive and absolute (for example the small synthetic roses), yet they are reinterpreted in a way that is closer to American Pop Art, exuberant in their use and in their pseudo-finality of their use (for example, as table On point, p. 10) with their cleverly ironic and provocative and not so veiled ideas of bourgeois conformism, of sexism and feminism, through the use of universal, kitsch icons (Brenda, p. 21). William Braemer is an artist who, through his many paintings and sculptures, always poetically and intellectually draws on his Cuban-American and European cultural roots by ‘being singular plural’. __________________________________ 4Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural, Éditions Galilée,1996, translated by Robert D. Richardson & Anne E. O’Byrne, Stanford University Press, 2000, p. 28-30 10

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Sculptures "The haunting, timeless, elegiac and 'mythically' symbolic and iconic vision of the figuration is better reflected in William’s sculptural work that reveals a clearly manifested metaphorical journey."

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Twiggie III Approximately 15,000 US Dimes 14 30x15x10 inches

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