(American, b. 1952)
Modern Quilt, 2000
Mixed media on paper woven and laid on canvas; 60 x 48 inches
Loan courtesy of Foltz Fine Art, Houston, TX
Born in Queens, New York in 1952 as the New York School was garnering national attention, Ibsen Espada arrives late in the narrative of Abstract Expressionism. In the art world, where the avant-garde is manufactured and killed off in a blink of an eye, some insist that latecomers to an artistic movement are inherently derivative or passé. Critics, scholars, and gallerists tend to either overlook or disparage latecomers due to their remoteness from revolutionary stylistic or theoretical geneses. While some latecomers are glutinously derivative and only capable of making pastiches, others, like Espada, are visionary artists who deserve our recognition. Just as a contemporary jazz master revisits and revitalizes standards, Espada employs the language and rhythm of his artistic forbearers to create original and profound art.
Modern Quilt has all the hallmarks of an Abstract Expressionist artwork. It is devoid of objectivity and realist representation. It is energetic, gestural, and emotive. Modern Quilt is a collage of modernity. Employing Mondrian’s trademark tonality, Matisse’s calligraphic marks, Warhol’s immediacy, and Basquiat’s graffiti, Modern Quilt rewrites the script of modern art. While the tone, story, and mechanisms remain the same, new meaning is created. Despite being created a half-century after Pollock’s famous drip paintings, Modern Quilt is fresh and inventive. Working within the Abstract Expressionist idiom, Espada finds his voice, his mode.
Espada was raised in Puerto Rico where he studied under the Cuban sculptor Rolando López Dirube. In 1975, Espada relocated to Houston. In Houston, he worked as Dorothy Hood’s studio assistant and studied at the Glassell School of Art. Espada showed in the seminal 1985-86 exhibition Fresh Paint: The Houston School at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and at the Museum of Modern Art. His art can be seen in the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, and the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth.
University of Houston-Victoria