Amadeo Morelos, Monet, Rothko and Plato
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Amadeo Morelos, Monet, Rothko and Plato

Amadeo Morelos’ solo exhibition, Providence, is currently on display at Unit London until Tuesday 23rd March. To explore the ideas behind Morelos’ artworks and practice further, we took a closer look at his diverse inspirations. The artist’s broad range of influences stems from the artistic, the philosophical, the mythological and more.

Morelos is quick to point out that his influences change constantly. He diverts to and from brief moments of inspiration and is often drawn to specific images more than particular artistic movements or periods. When first approaching Morelos’ vibrantly coloured works, the mythological content, reminiscent of Old Master paintings, is immediately striking. Although Morelos has put his own contemporary twist on this content, re-examining mythological figures through a modern-day lens, his inspiration is rooted in a vast visual history. Morelos names Botticelli, Rembrandt and Franciso de Zurbaràn as important figures in the development of his aesthetic, indicating their use of chiaroscuro as a particular influence on the treatment of light and shadow in his own works.  

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, The Abduction of Europa, 1632, oil on single oak panel, 64.6 × 78.7 cm (Credit: https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/882/rembrandt-harmensz-van-rijn-the-abduction-of-europa-dutch-1632/)

Before Morelos became aware of Old Master paintings, he was first drawn to the work of the French artist, Claude Monet. During his childhood, he would carry a book of Monet works with him everywhere, subconsciously absorbing the Impressionist visual language that focussed on the movement of light. As a child, he could not rationalise the attraction to Monet’s paintings, but, as an adult, Morelos now reflects that it was Monet’s representation of light that struck him and has continued to have a lasting impact on his work. For Morelos, the Impressionist endeavour of concentrating on light and forgetting form has become central to his own oeuvre, which abstracts figures into vibrantly coloured compositions.

  Claude Monet, Rocks at Port-Goulphar, Belle-Île, 1886, oil on canvas, 66 × 81.8 cm (Credit: https://www.artic.edu/artworks/20545/rocks-at-port-goulphar-belle-ile)

As Morelos’ own visual style matured and he began to discover the more conceptual approaches to creating art, his influences also began to develop. His interest in abstraction continued and, as such, he became deeply fascinated by the work of the abstract painter, Mark Rothko. Morelos indicates how Rothko’s works drill down to the core of painting in its most abstract form, concentrating purely on colour and light. The importance of colour resonates with Morelos’ own work with its intensely vivid hues. In Providence, Morelos presents a particular series of oils with a stripped back palette, rendering compositions only in shades of blue. These works seem more concerned with the manipulation of light and shadow than with the exact representation of specific forms, conveying immaterial sensations over reality.

         

Mark Rothko, No. 61 (Rust and Blue), 1953, oil on canvas, 292.74 x 233.68 cm (Credit: https://www.moca.org/collection/work/no-61-rust-and-blue-brown-blue-brown-on-blue)

Amadeo Morelos, Club Mass, 2019, oil on polyester, 46 x91 cm 

In the same vein, Morelos names the American artist, James Turrell, known for his work in the Light and Space movement, as a crucial influence. Morelos remembers visiting a retrospective of Turrell’s work, displayed at Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2013-2014. For the artist, this was an emotionally definitive experience, which had a profound effect on him. He was deeply moved by Turrell’s immersive works and reminisces that, when viewing these works, he lost awareness of himself, becoming only aware of the artwork. Morelos has since hoped to achieve the same sensations with his own pieces. He highlights that all visual art is, in essence, light. Turrell’s immersive artworks therefore seemingly represent an ultimate goal: the abstraction of light itself.

James Turrell, Breathing Light, 2013, LED light into space (Credit: https://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/james-turrell-retrospective)

As well as artistic inspirations, Morelos speaks of his profound interest in philosophy and mythology. During his time at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he became captivated by Plato’s Allegory of the cave. After studying this excerpt from Plato’s Republic, the artist became intrigued by the effect of education, or lack of it, on our natures. He came to understand personally how one is able to perceive higher levels of reality through education, both formal and experiential. At the same time, Morelos became drawn to the myths surrounding Greek heroes such as Dionysius, Apollo and Hercules. His own artworks examine the narrative of the hero’s journey that stems from these stories and how this narrative intersects with Plato’s cave allegory. As a result, Morelos became particularly influenced by mythological accounts of self-growth. Here, he indicates parallels with his personal life, reflecting on his return to his hometown of Morelia during the pandemic. Morelos noticed how the town had not physically changed. However, his own viewpoint had transformed dramatically since his time away and he now perceives his seemingly familiar surroundings in completely new ways.

Simon Vouet, Parnassus or Apollo and the Muses (detail), c.1640, oil on panel (Credit: https://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/v/vouet/2/08parnas.html)

Amadeo Morelos, Playing the Lyre, 2018, oil on polyester, 91 x71 cm 

Ultimately, Morelos reflects how his own progression of influences, notably the development from Monet, to Rothko and then to Turrell, mirrors Plato’s cave allegory and the hero’s journey itself. The artist highlights how this progression indicates his own self-growth and the development of his aesthetic. Through these evolving inspirations, Morelos states how he is able to constantly uncover new layers of reality and delve into new “caves” of discovery.

 

 

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