Artist Stands By His Humorous Art

On February 14, and probably with a drink in his hand
BY: ART MAJOR

Tuesday February 14th marks the date for the 5th solo exhibition for Colombian artist Andres Garcia-Peña at the Ida Victoria art gallery in San Jose’s art district.

This exhibition features more than 25 new paintings from his series he calls the “Revenge of the Bulls,” and it is humorous. The paintings all present bull fights from the bulls’ perspective. For those not familiar with the concept, the scene is bull heaven- the bulls from past fights who have died in the ring are now angels, smoking and drinking, whooping and hollering, cheering for the bull. Matador be damned.

The artist will be there to take his accolades and to celebrate and unveiling of these hilarious, colorful, and collectable new pieces that transport the viewer into Andres’ world of bull heaven.
Andres Garcia-Peña has an interesting and global background that is evident in his work. He was born of Colombian parents in Italy, raised in Miami and New Orleans and began his career as an artist while attending Cooper Union School in New York City. During these years Andres quickly became a prominent figure in the East Village art scene, exhibiting in galleries and doing mural work throughout the city.

 In the early 90’s Andres traveled to Barcelona to prepare for a solo show, and fell in love with the city and decided to stay. Thus began his love affair with Europe and his future wife Caitlin, an American studying in Barcelona. Andres always jokes that he had to go all the way to Europe to meet a sweet girl from New Jersey. After many successful years as an artist in Europe, Andres and Caitlin moved back to New York where he immediately picked up where he left off; diving back into the creative but competitive New York art scene.

In 1995 Andres inherited the coveted position as New York City’s Gondolier, from his cousin. Now he paints in the winter, creating works for shows around the globe, and rows in the summer in his authentic Venetian built Gondola on the lake in Central Park.

Andres lives and paints in Brooklyn with his daughters Sofia Barcelona and Isabella Brooklyn always close by.

 In total, Andres has an impressive and worldwide exhibition record, with over 20 solo shows and countless group exhibitions, one at the Pompidou Center in Paris, entitled “East Village Art” in 1983.This is not the only Museum Show he has participated in; the curator of New York City’s Latin American Museum on 5th Ave, Museo Barrio, requested two bull paintings for an exhibition; he now has work in their permanent collection.

Andres painted his first bull paintings 23 years ago. His fascination with bullfighting was sparked by childhood memories of a bird’s-eye-view from an aunt’s balcony overlooking the Plaza Santa Maria in Bogotá, Colombia.

During his time living in Barcelona, Andres delved wholeheartedly into this theme and created the first series of bulls to be shown in Europe. In 2003, at the grand opening of Galeria de Ida Victoria, the bull paintings became the most sought after pieces in the show. Maia Norman, wife of famous British artist Damien Hirst, purchased two for their personal collection. Then ten years after his experience in Barcelona, Andres revisited his zany world of “Bull Heaven” from his studio/loft in Brooklyn, New York with a new eye, and a more experienced hand.

A Solo Show here at the gallery was the culmination of a year of painting this theme. The show was a huge success, selling over half of the 20 pieces on opening night!

Asked about this series Andres says, “A Swedish critic once said ‘where Hemingway left off, Garcia-Peña continues.’ I'd love to think that I am part of that tradition of artists reinterpreting and celebrating this compelling and controversial tradition. I feel my take is completely unique and beautiful; an elegantly painted joke.”

Three years ago García-Peña became tired of painting the bulls, claiming the series was over. He began making paintings harkening to his early days as a graffiti artist- the gestural and vibrant paintings included layers of text, portraits and stencils. In the summer of 2016 García-Peña was commissioned to make a bullfight painting. The resultant piece incorporated his current layered/graffiti style which sparked a fresh turn towards the bulls once again. This latest interpretation continues to see the matador avenged among a rabble of carousing bulls who have become a little more menacing and edgy, which García-Peña feels better suits the narrative he is attempting to achieve. Same theme, same bulls, same drunken rebellious looking bulls, but with a new twist.

Many of you may remember the Italian arias he sang at past openings, or listened as he told wild stories and double entendre jokes: Andres is always entertaining. To meet the artist, swing by Tuesday evening, February 14th from 6-9pm for their private event. (RSVP to the gallery is required- send email to ida@idavictoriaarts.com) or on Thursday evening during Art Walk.