Unit London is thrilled to announce the opening of Amadeo Morelos’ first solo exhibition with the gallery, Providence.
To celebrate the opening of Morelos’ show, we invite you to explore a new and exciting analysis of the exhibition by the Professor and artist, Susanna J Coffey. Throughout her essay, Coffey delves into the far-reaching context of Morelos’ artwork while illuminating its contemporary relevance and its expertly modern twist on mythology and classical art (click here to read the full essay).
Susanna J Coffey
Artist and Professor
Susanna J Coffey received her BFA magna cum laude from the University of Connecticut and went on to receive her MFA from the Yale School of Art in 1982. Coffey is an internationally renowned artist who is best known for her portrait paintings, particularly her self-portraits. She also explores other genres of painting such as cityscapes, landscapes and flower paintings.
Coffey’s paintings appear in the collections of multiple institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Art institute of Chicago; Yale University Art Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Seville, Spain. She has also received numerous prestigious awards for her artworks, most notably the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1999, Coffey was elected into the National Academy of Design, New York. Coffey is the F.H. Sellers Professor in Painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There, she met and taught Morelos, becoming an important influence and mentor for the young artist.
Opposite Image: Susanna J Coffey, Self-Portrait (red cowel), 1993, oil on linen, 30.5 x 28cm
Susanna J Coffey on Amadeo Morelos
An analysis of the exhibition, Providence
In her engaging essay on Providence, Coffey elucidates the striking and historical subject matter of Morelos’s vibrantly coloured artworks. Coffey investigates Morelos’ unusual presentation of the mythological Greek hero, beginning her essay with a series of humorous questions that consider how the hero might appear in today’s world. She asks, “What could those far-famed Olympian gods, demiurges, and champions be up to these days? Where did Hercules Invictus, Phoebus Apollo, Zeus the Thunderer and their crew go after being driven from their mountain by hordes of Gore-Tex-clad backpacking tourists? Resting on laurels, donning the old lion skin, strumming a harp, drinking a can of C4 instead of Ambrosia maybe?”
Coffey goes on to convey the nuanced nature of Morelos’ artworks, which depict these famous heroes in all their musclebound glory. Yet, these images seem equally to portray a sense of identity in crisis. Coffey highlights, “Yes, Amadeo is bringing us into a world of mythic champions, but no one here seems particularly valiant. Rather they seem bemused or confused about the role each has been cast into.” As such, the writer illuminates the complexity of Morelos’ chosen subject matter, which presents us with a new side to these mythicised heroes, a side that is both comical and vulnerable. In this way, Morelos’s work perhaps speaks to more contemporary perceptions of traditional views of masculinity. Coffey continues by exploring Morelos’ striking use of colour and how it enhances the nuanced presentation of his figures: “His palette is a hot, saturated one. Not cool marble-white, the bodies of Hercules, Apollo, Bacchus, are brightly hued. These musclebound guys are colored sweet, hot red or fleshed like a rainbow. The stars of this show are big and brawny, but their strength seems questionable. Sensuous paint renders them luminous, multicolored and seemingly soft-skinned.”
The writer also sheds light on some of Morelos’ inspirations behind the sculptural works presented in Providence, citing influences such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Clodion. Moreover, Coffey conveys how Morelos’ hometown, Morelia in Mexico, provided him with rich visual inspiration: “Growing up in Michoacán, he was surrounded by fountains, paintings and statuary created by artists of the Mexican Baroque period like Miguel Cabrera and Cristóbal de Villalpando. In the parks and churches of his home town of Morelia the artist would have often passed by these narrative, often polychrome sculptures that reference cultural, often religious narratives.” However, as Coffey succinctly points out, even though Morelos’ works offer visual clues to his many stylistic influences, they are never derivative. Instead, they remain intimate, original and profoundly personal.
Scroll down and click the link to read Susanna J Coffey’s essay on Amadeo Morelos’ exhibition in full.