Amadeo Morelos
16 February - 23 March 2021
Unit London

Providence

Amadeo Morelos

Providence is an exhibition that demonstrates Amadeo Morelos’ profound love for the depth of expression different mediums can afford the artist.

With such a broad range of interests, Morelos has many strands of thought to pick from and weave together in his practice. The foundation for Providence is an interest in the parallels between the mythological hero and the artist. Both figures possess an innate gift, one which they feel compelled to pursue; they put themselves on show, exposing themselves to judgement; and, most importantly in this case, they are both linked strongly to an appreciation of the human form.

Morelos first became interested in these ideas when learning about the travelling carnivals of the nineteenth century, ‘freak shows’ attended by a braying public. He began to look at the modern day equivalents to this phenomena and became transfixed by bodybuilding. These sculpted figures not only have links to the early days of the circus, but they also mirror the physique of the mythological hero. Amadeo’s interest in the narrative structures of antiquity - particularly the stories of Hercules, Apollo and Dionysus - and how these remain relevant today, strongly informs his work. In Amadeo’s opinion, the hero complex is rife in contemporary society. Young generations are shaped by phrases and modes of thought that reinforce a sanctity of the self that is perhaps over inflated: ‘be your best you’, ‘live your best life‘ and other such phrases have little time for others around you and bolster ideas that we are the lead role in our own story. Amadeo notes that the progressive arc of a typical lifetime reflects that of the mythological hero: most of us grow up, take on new responsibilities and overcome certain obstacles. Through this link between contemporary reality and mythological narratives, the artist reminds us just how old ideas of self importance and physical aesthetics are, and why they’re worth considering today.

Amadeo Morelos' studio, 2021

Morelos’ figures ask us to find the line between the sculpted and the grotesque.

They ask us to examine the associations we hold around our physical appearance, to question whether the ‘perfect’ physique is more reflective of empathy or egoism, pride or vanity. Morelos believes the role of the artist is to uncover universal truths about contemporary society. Who better to confront issues of the body/personality axis than the artist, the only member of our society - other than the bodybuilder - who is quite so obsessed with form.

Morelos was born in Morelia, Mexico. Since he was a child he has been fascinated by artistic processes; his youth was spent drawing. As a teenager Morelos’ interests turned to sculpture and he excelled at making clay figures. At the age of seventeen, his father took him to a foundry in Morelia, where he learnt the intricacies of lost wax bronze casting and further cultivated his interest in the arts. Morelos attended the University of Chicago for a BFA. After graduating he co-created a pop-up gallery called Green Door which exhibited work from a range of graduate artists based in Chicago. Morelos will soon attend Columbia University to study for an MFA.

Professor and Artist, Susanna J Coffey, on Amadeo Morelos:

"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?  

Amadeo Morelos’ gorgeous, vibrant paintings, drawings and sculptures show us something of how our Grecian gods and heroes might look in today’s world. In this exhibition, we see these mythic beings portrayed in rich color and texture, as wonkily beautiful and certainly less than heroic. They seem almost the opposite as they try to get their musclebound bodies to shoot an arrow, capture prey, get the girl or even pluck some music from a colorful broken lyre. Mr. Morelos’ colorful pantheon is less likely to slay Nemean Lions and kill Chimeras than to pump iron at some strip-mall health club. After all, when Zeus brought Hercules to Mt. Olympus he declared Hercules the God of Gymnasiums. As Apollo turns toward us in the painting “Window Apollo” he still wears the laurel wreath but has exchanged his toga for a sky-blue sport shirt. Inside his dark room, its walls sgraffitoed with cartoonish snakes and cherubs, his tiny eyes are puffy red, he’s hungover maybe? What happens in “Playing the Lyre” when Phoebus, god of music, tries to pick a tune on his broken stringed instrument? He seems confused, unsure of his ability.  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. And that role “The Hero” is one that has been with us for millennia. For ages these ancient Greek divinities have defined our idealizations of manhood as being decisive, forceful, hard, invulnerable, successful, strong and triumphant. Mr. Morelos’ beautiful paintings show us a more nuanced vision of these heroic figures, another idea about strength itself."

Click here to read Susanna J Coffey's essay in full.
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