Angel Otero - Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches Hong Kong Thursday, May 25, 2023 | Phillips
  • Suffused with a chromatic eruption of compositional dynamism, Bayamón is a visually captivating masterpiece that pays homage to Angel Otero’s Puerto Rican roots and his humble beginnings. At once strikingly complex, the present work gradually unfolds before the eyes of the beholder, revealing a plethora of juxtaposed forms and constellations of elements that overlap and splice together. As a result, the shapes fall perfectly into place and complement each other like pieces in a puzzle.


    Characterised by his bold and densely layered works created via a wholly unique method, Otero’s disruptive visual appeal has continued to captivate the attention of a global audience. First unveiled as part of Otero’s solo exhibition Born in the Echoes held at Lehmann Maupin Hong Kong in 2016, this will be the first time Bayamón is offered at auction. The present work exemplifies Otero’s irrefutably innovative approach to painting and is a continuation of the artist’s watershed Oil Skin series, one of Otero’s most iconic and recognised sequence of works which he began creating in 2010.



    Installation view of the current work (right) at Hong Kong, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, Born in the Echoes, 26 May – 2 July 2016


    To achieve the effect of his Oil Skin paintings, the artist undergoes an arduous process of pouring thick layers of oil paint onto panels of Plexiglas, whereby allowing it to semi-dry before delicately flaying off the ‘skins’. He then cuts them up and reconstructs the pieces with fabrics onto the canvas as a free-form collage, adding a more sculptural dimension that extends beyond the constraints of two-dimensional painting. This act of ‘deformation’ is part of Otero’s disruptive technical process, which makes him one of the most exciting and innovative artists working today.


    A Recollection of Memories

    “I was embracing memory as a universal language. I was thinking about how these works, through the process of their making, took me back to many old thoughts and recollections. I’m not trying to reinterpret a specific memory, but rather embrace the idea of it.”
    — Angel Otero

    Bayamón features a barrage of visual cues and vigorous marks – resulting in an amalgamation of pure linear elegance, tonal vibrancy, and painterly gesture. Named after the eponymous Puerto Rican city, Bayamón touches on numerous references pertaining to Otero’s childhood and his cultural background, evoking a recollection of past memories in his native country. Reflecting on how the nature and formulation of memories have influenced his artistic practice, Otero explains, ‘These works are so mine. I’m constantly thinking about the concept of home, but also about the different departures that I can take from it, converting into an interesting formal excuse to make these paintings that are very meaningful to me. I feel that I have always been on this constant rediscovery or re-questioning myself: where I’ve come from, where I am, where I grew up. Where I’m at the present moment, and how I relate that to my past.’ i



    Detail of the present work


    Infused with a deep sense of nostalgia, viewers may discover subtle hints of everyday objects embedded within Bayamón such as wind chimes, an iron gate, lace, and dried flowers – all items which hold a special place in Otero’s heart as well as having the ability to shape his individual identity. Tinged with earthy tones and geometric shapes of sky blue, the artist’s canvas brings to mind the soft warm glow of the Caribbean sun.


    Oscillating between flatness and three dimensionality, Bayamón exists almost as a sculptural painting, melding together the tactile qualities of sculpture with the colours and forms often displayed within paintings. Otero’s praxis can be understood as disruptive in the way in which he experiments with concepts such as texture and tactility to break free from conventional strictures. Characterised by the physical elements of Bayamón, Otero conjures a visually bewitching synthesis between the fragmented graphic qualities of collage and the fluid integration of painting and it invites viewers to embark on his journey down memory lane.




    Angel Otero on the process of creating his ‘oil skins’
    Video Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth



    An Affinity with Abstraction

    Besides probing the notion of memory, Otero’s practice has also been deeply engaged with the language of abstract image making. Bayamón undoubtedly marks the culmination of this experimentation and fuses art historical references ranging from Willem de Kooning, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, and Mark Bradford amongst other Abstract Expressionists. The artist’s working method has also been described as one of erasure – by obscuring his personal recollections through his spontaneous and material-based techniques. Evidently in the present work, Otero incorporates etching as a means of obliteration where he painstakingly scrapes away layers of pigment, creating rigorous acts of mark-making.


    Bayamón belongs to a body of work in which Otero began delving deeper into abstraction. Composition by de Kooning (1955) particularly draws parallels to the way in which both artists explore the concept of abstraction. Imbued with bold colours, gestural brushstrokes and angular geometric configurations, Otero and de Kooning’s works both exude a sense of coarseness that is uniquely their own.



    Willem de Kooning, Composition, 1955
    Artwork: © 2023 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


    “The work wasn’t just about making something cool and unique but it became almost a shield of me being able to explore the subjects that I wanted and the process eventually almost acted as a filter between the directness of me and the subject. The process of abstracting all these direct subjects could keep me safe.”
    — Angel Otero


    Otero sees abstraction as a way to safeguard his personal narratives, being wary not to disclose his full identity; it establishes barriers between what is real and imagined. On this he shares, ‘My plan is not to reveal them directly; it’s about hopefully finding ways to transform them in ways that people are going to feel but not necessarily recognise.’ii Bayamón visually captures Otero’s technical bravura and exemplifies the fully-fledged expressive power of Otero’s work.



    Collector’s Digest

    • Born 1981 in Puerto Rico, Angel Otero lives and works in Brooklyn. He received both his BFA and MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating in 2009.

    • Otero’s most recent solo exhibition includes Angel Otero. Swimming Where Time Was which ended at Hauser and Wirth, New York in 2022.

    • Otero’s top 5 results at auction have all been set in the past 2 years, indicative of the strength of his market. This includes a comparable painting titled All Smiles (2019) which was sold by Phillips Hong Kong in March 2023, where it doubled its high estimate.

    • The artist has also held solo exhibitions at Lehmann Maupin, New York, NY (2021); Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, NY (2017); Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, TX (2016); Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain (2015); SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2013); and Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh, NC (2012), among others.

    • The artist’s works are housed in numerous public and private collections including the Long Museum, Shanghai; Berezdivin Collection, Puerto Rico; Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY; DePaul University Museum, Chicago, IL; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.



    i Angel Otero, quoted in Valentina Di Liscia, ‘Painter Angel Otero on Solitude and What It Means When You Can’t Go Home’, Hyperallergic, 14 August 2020, online

    ii Angel Otero, quoted in Taylor Dafoe, ‘Act First and Then Think: Artist Angel Otero on How to Turn Failure Into Fuel for Creativity’, Hyperallergic, 10 April 2019, online

    • Provenance

      Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Hong Kong, Lehmann Maupin, Born in the Echoes, 26 May - 2 July 2016



signed, titled and dated 'Angel Otero 2016 ""Bayamón""' on the reverse
oil paint and fabric collage on canvas
213.4 x 152.4 cm. (84 x 60 in.)
Executed in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

HK$700,000 - 1,000,000 

Sold for HK$1,079,500

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Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches

Hong Kong Auction 25 May 2023