Alberto Valdes

Original Works on Paper

While some artists naturally embrace the attention their fame brings
them, there are other artists that shy away from the spotlight, and at
the extreme, choose privacy and solitude in the studio. Without the
constant examination of the public eye, the recluse artist is left to
his…

While some artists naturally embrace the attention their fame brings
them, there are other artists that shy away from the spotlight, and at
the extreme, choose privacy and solitude in the studio. Without the
constant examination of the public eye, the recluse artist is left to
his own devices. Ironically, this insular environment only encourages
speculation about their inspirations, reasoning, and artistic choices.
Alberto Valdés (1918-1998) is such an artist and we have no choice but
to conjecture about his artwork as it is now slowly emerging into the
light of the public sphere.

Alberto Moreno Valdés was born in El Paso, Texas, March 28, 1918, the
eldest son of Alberto Valdés, Sr., a celebrated Mexican composer and
conductor of the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra. The Valdés family
relocated to east Los Angeles, California in 1925, specifically to the
Boyle Heights neighborhood that was predominantly inhabited by Mexican
and Italian families. At a young age, Valdés exhibited a natural
ability for the plastic arts and he blossomed eventually into a
commercial artist and illustrator, a career choice that not only paid
the bills but also afforded him the means to study and purchase art
books and magazines. He never physically traveled but, his countless
art subscriptions whisked him away to the far corners of the
international art world.

It was the early 20th Century Modernists, among them Pablo Picasso, Paul
Gauguin, Wassily Kandinsky, and most importantly, Mexican artist Rufino
Tamayo, that particularly appealed to Valdés and, years later, he
stated that “through the years of study, they have given me the
necessary foundation that I needed.” It cannot be discounted that, in
addition to his interests in these fine European and Latin American
Modernist artists, his own neighborhood of Boyle Heights had a profound
influence on him: East L.A. was a hotbed for the Mexican-American, or
Chicano, Civil Rights Movement (el Movimiento), which began in the 1940s
and culminated in the 1970s. The ideology of the era celebrated a
Pre-Columbian cultural origin and many artists embraced a hybridized
heritage with indigenous iconography like ancient glyphs and figures.
In looking over the body of paintings that Valdés created, we find
figurative abstraction with a heavy emphasis on contour and color. The
strength and quality of his lines determine the underlying structure of
his subjects, while simultaneously heightening the sensuous experience
of the shape. Like Tamayo, Valdés adopted a sober approach to his use
of color, choosing to focus on brightly saturated colors in limited
number—Tamayo was noted for adopting the attitude of “less is more” with
color. Adding in a touch of Fauvist color influence, Valdés used color
to translate a range of spiritual emotions. In speaking of his
artwork, Valdés claimed to be spiritually moved by the mere execution of
his work; each painting was an epiphany of subconscious thought and
idea. He frequently said, “Mi vida es mi arte” (My art is my life).

Valdés painted in the same studio in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles
for over 55 years, steadfastly refusing to exhibit or sell any of his
artwork. He passed away on May 10, 1998 in the home that he painted in
for six decades. Before now, the only people to ever witness him
working or see the completed paintings and drawings were his immediate
family and a few friends. His artwork first met with public attention
in 2011-2012 when it was chosen for inclusion in the Autry National
Center’s exhibition, Art Along the Hyphen: The Mexican-American
Generation. This important presentation was actually part of a larger
prestigious, multi-year initiative by the Getty Foundation, entitled
Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980, which included feature art
exhibitions, concerts, and performances focused on celebrating those
who helped to put Southern California on the cultural map after World
War II.

Blue Rain Gallery is proud to continue to shed light and attention on
Alberto Valdés, as the vibrancy of his paintings stand the test of time.
At the very least, we propose that his artwork is certainly worthy of
in-depth aesthetic examination, and in following suit, the artwork
should elicit and demand further appreciation.

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