In the studio with a nearly finished piece.
My first encounter with Iván Carmona’s work was seeing Imprint of Place, the two-person show that he was in last year at PDX CONTEMPORARY ART with Liz Rob. I went during the first Thursday opening and the gallery was filled with supporters, collectors, and casual onlookers, but I remember immediately feeling like I was the only person in the room. Rob’s wall pieces maintained a commanding presence from the outer edges of the space and a long table full of Carmona’s intimate, brightly colored sculptures pierced through the winter coats shuffling across the gallery. Seeing that table was like unexpectedly seeing an old friend at a party who I hadn’t realized I was missing and having them call me over for a private reunion.
When I think about that moment, I don’t remember hearing a single conversation taking place in the gallery. In my mind’s eye it was as quiet as slipping under the warm, soapy water of a bath, and I can see myself walking towards the table of painted sculptures that felt like they had been conjured into existence specifically for me to look at. It was, quite simply, a transfixing visual experience.
Iván Carmona recently let me visit him in his Northwest Portland studio. Below are some Semi-Finalist questions and Carmona’s responses. Many of the photos are by Mario Gallucci courtesy of PDX CONTEMPORARY ART.
Left: works in progress in Carmona's studio.
Right: Flamingo, flashe on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
Semi-Finalist: Iván, your work is often deceptively simple. How do you arrive at a given form?
Iván Carmona: My forms are inspired by nature, fruit, tree leaves, pebble- stones. Sometimes it is from my Puerto Rican culture or a specific time from my childhood memories.
SF: Can you talk more about how memory plays a role in your creative process?
IC: I think that my new body of work comes from a romantic idea of nostalgic memories of a past childhood, my first impressions of nature and cultural experiences.
Works in progress.
S-F: Have your abstract vessels and shapes always been on the minimalist side, or did you arrive at this language over the course of several years?
IC: No, I was always attracted to the minimalism movement. Before that my work was concentrated on human and animal figures and then I slowly turned to abstractions.
S-F: I’m very drawn to the color in your work. It’s bold, direct, and completely approachable. Can you talk about your color choices and the inspirations for them?
IC: In my process, sometimes the form and color emerge at the same time. The form and color activate a specific moment, a memory of my life.
Left: Abrázame, flashe paint on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
Right: A corner of the studio.
Iván Carmona talking about form and memory.
S-F: You’ve mentioned Alexander Calder and Isamu Noguchi as influences. What kind of impact have they had on your work?
IC: The use of materials on their own and how the history of that material speaks. His (Noguchi’s) innovative work, he experimented with biomorphic forms to create unexpected aesthetic combinations.
S-F: Are there other artists, living or dead, that you’re currently looking at? And what are you taking away from them?
IC: Ellsworth Kelly: his use of vibrant, saturated colors and his use of negative space. Anthony Caro: suggestive shapes which he then painted with uniform colors, linear in form, and prominent in character.
Left: getting ready for the kiln.
Right: Cacique, flashe paint on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
S-F: What are some of the other projects that you’ve been developing alongside your cohesive body of abstract forms?
IC: I love the symbolism of everyday objects and tools. With them I like to deconstruct them and create a new narrative, a personal or political statement.
An example of Carmona's interest in using found and modified objects to create new narratives.
S-F: What’s next for you?
IC: I’m working on a new body of work.
S-F: What’s your dream project?
IC: My dream project is to make a colossal piece for a public space.
S-F: I can't wait to see it.
Above: Llanura, flashe paint on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
Below: Huella, flashe paint on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
The artist in his studio.
Left: Pavo Real, flashe paint on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
Right: Ventanita, flashe paint on ceramic, 2019. Photo: Mario Gallucci
You can see more of Ivan Carmona's work here.
Sublime opens on December 4th, 2019 and runs through the end of the month.
Full disclosure: I live with an Iván Carmona original and it makes me incredibly happy every time I look at it.