Saturday, January 16, 2010

Javier Cabada at Aaron Gallery

acrylic on canvas

It begins with the music. The first few gentle notes of a sonata drift through the gallery as Javier Cabada stands before a large, empty canvas. This white void serves not to intimidate him, but to provide an expansive playground for the possibilities of his imagination. Today he will be painting the portrait of a man he has known well for years but whom he has never met. With a decisive first few brush strokes, Cabada quickly breaks up the empty space by loosely mapping out the major landmarks of the face. Once this has been accomplished, he immediately dives into color using broad, sweeping applications of thick paint with the palette knife. As indications of light and shadow begin to emerge, he continues to sculpt the planes of the face with a series of long, jagged brush strokes that twist and turn with a bold spontaneity. The mood of the music gradually builds as the painterly elements of line and form intermingle with one another. Cabada continually steps back to contemplate his progress every so often. It is a dance guided by the sounds of the piano and intuitive response. This process continues for several hours until at last the image of Frederic Chopin is fully realized.

Javier Cabada’s successful artistic career has spanned the course of many decades. Born in Barcelona, Spain in 1931, he has painted nearly every type of subject matter and experimented with a wide variety of materials since his first introduction to painting at the age of 17. Although each of his endeavors have taught him something unique and insightful about what it means to be an artist, Cabada finds his greatest inspiration through painting large scale portraits of composers from the Romantic period. His passion for the music is always evident in his work. Even after nearly 40 years of painting the same people, he still discovers something new and exciting about each of them. To this day Beethoven, Chopin and Paganini remain personal favorites and are the most sought after paintings that he produces. For Cabada it is not enough to simply recreate the likeness of a composer, but to capture their personality and essence as well. He does this by immersing himself in the experience of listening to the music and expressing his own interpretation of it on canvas. The result is more than just a portrait. It is a glimpse of raw, human vitality.

The paintings themselves are highly expressionistic and push the boundaries between representation and abstraction. Heavily stylized paint strokes secure the physical similarities of the composer while also providing an ambiguity that allows for personal interpretation from the viewer. Though the paintings are grounded in the realm of the physical, they generously explore the delight found in the metaphysical. This is most effectively demonstrated through Cabada’s exceptional palette where vibrant color plays a crucial role in establishing mood and energy. He takes great liberties with the color he puts down in layers by creating unexpected variations which cause the painting to vibrate and evoke a highly emotional response. Each passage of color effectively activates the one next to it. Although many of his color choices are rather unexpected for rendering the tones of human flesh, they always coalesce together to form a perfect balance. His use of marks are equally confident. Often times he will mix color directly on the canvas or apply paint right from the tube in great globs that are enticingly tactile. It is moments like these where Cabada’s strength as an Expressionist painter truly shines. The results of the brush strokes and various marks are often left to objective chance, but are applied so deliberately that everything has a purpose within the composition.

When one views a painting by Javier Cabada, it becomes clear that his process is not merely about the act of painting, but the act of feeling alive. His enthusiasm for creating art and being moved by the music he loves is something which he regards as deeply spiritual. For Cabada, a painting must transcend its role as an object or style and reach its full potential by reminding people that life is full of illusions. In order to escape these illusions, we must look beyond what is tangible and contemplate what it means to us.

Javier Cabada has the honor of maintaining exclusive representation at Aaron Gallery and has been exhibited at many museums and galleries nationally and internationally. His paintings have been on view at Aaron Gallery for over 30 years and continue to be shown today. Cabada works and lives in the D.C. area and frequently enjoys painting in front of visitors at Aaron Gallery.

Jennifer Woronow
January, 2010

Jennifer Woronow is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design where she received a B.F.A. in Illustration. She currently interns at Aaron Gallery while pursuing her own art.

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