A brush with... Alvaro Barrington

Alvaro Barrington talks to Ben Luke about his influences—from writers to musicians and, of course, other artists—and the cultural experiences that have shaped his life and work. For Barrington—who was born in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1983, but grew up in Grenada and Brooklyn—painting is the bedrock of a practice that incorporates installation, sculpture and found objects, textiles, the written word and community events. He weaves together broad references, drawing on his personal and cultural background, and hugely diverse influences—particularly from art history, literature, political thought, and music—to create arresting and often exuberant constellations of imagery and materials. He discusses his early interest in the Akira manga, his admiration for artists as diverse as Louise Bourgeois, Jeff Koons and Johannes Vermeer, the significance of Audre Lorde’s essay Poetry is Not a Luxury, and why he feels the hip-hop legend Tupac is the most significant artist of the last 40 years. He gives insight into life in the studio, and reflects on the importance of his move to London from New York in the 2010s. Plus, he answers our usual questions, including the ultimate: what is art for?

Alvaro’s work will be at the Notting Hill Carnival on 27 and 28 August. Grandma’s Land, Sadie Coles HQ, London, 2 September-21 October; They Got Time, Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris Pantin, 18 October-27 January 2024; Nicola Vassell, New York, November-December, dates to be confirmed; Tate Britain commission, Tate Britain, London, spring 2024. Alvaro discusses Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, on the The Week in Art’s Vermeer Special.

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