Jose Luis Cabrera’s fourth solo exhibition, Noctuary examines both the internal and external landscapes of memory. The fragility of the human psyche, nostalgia’s weighty presence, and the intensely personal nature of experience all impress upon memory’s highly subjective nature. Sometimes our minds paint vivid pictures of our experiences, highlighting certain visual details, smells, or physical sensations. Other times we scrape the back corners of our minds, attempting to excavate dulled or buried remnants of time like ancient artifacts that only faintly resemble their original form. Both Cabrera’s subject matter and artistic approach mirror these internal processes.
Not only does Cabrera work from his own memory, his unique artistic process and use of materials reflects the building up and slow scraping away of the memories themselves. One of the most unique and noticeable features of his pieces is the large variety of surfaces he constructs and deconstructs. Some areas of his paintings read more as relief sculptures because of their dramatic departure from the two-dimensional surface of the canvas. Yet in others, the painted surface becomes nothing more than a fine veil, exposing the raw texture of the linen underneath. Cabrera’s painterly techniques construct and reconstruct his memories physically in the same structure they exist in metaphorically. His paintings are elaborate and ornamental yet raw, dense and vibrant yet delicate.
In order to create these rich surfaces, Cabrera uses a variety of materials to alter the physical structure of the picture plane. He mixes sand, glass, aluminum powder and even sugar into the paint to enhance texture, create relief, and thicken the impasto. This technique is what allows him to build the surface of the canvas up, as well as augment the luminosity of his vibrant color palettes.