The Y Life 1-on-1 with Artist Pablo Carreño…
Pablo Carreño, is not just an artist, but a transcending visionary whose works were futuristic for their time, in relation to the realism his expressionism interpreted. Born in 1941 Havana, Cuba this sought after maestro, has never known anything to be more powerful, than the love of art.
From portraits of Mickey Mantel and George Steinbrenner, Carreño’s unique style is epitomized when his authentic character meets at the paradigm of his recognizably diverse curiosity for life and his vibrantly intense imagination, which exudes his every brushstroke, in his art and persona alike.
It’s difficult not to imagine Carreño in the prime of the 1970s throwing down a blank canvas in his Greenwich Village apartment floor on 8th between 5th and 6th Ave., staining his hands with colored acrylic pigments and mixing paint with his feelings to create these incredulous works of art, which have lined walls from Paris to Saint-Tropez and New York to Hong Kong. Whether he used paint or infused his art with charcoal, water and Cuban coffee his technique consistently spoke to the freedom that inspired his art’s boastful creativity.
The Y Life was honored to be able to sit and gather up some wisdom from Carreño just last week and we were thrilled at the opportunity to share his passion for art with each and every one of you.
“Well, I am a self taught, since I was three years old I started drawing, so my family didn’t have the capacity for me to do too much, but I just didn’t want to go and play with the kids, I was painting anywhere. I never went to a school or anything like that.”
Born in Havana and exiled as a political refugee to the United States during the Communist takeover of the island in the late 1950s, money wasn’t readily available for Carreño’s formal training, he spent his youth developing his art by experimentation and I wondered about Pablo’s journey to America… How it had influenced his art and how old he was, when he came from Cuba?
“Very young, I would say seventeen or something like that.”
So you came here to start a new life?
“I came here, because I hate the Communists. I hate those ugly people, when I saw them coming down with those ugly beards and they started to destroy everything… I was not able to take it, I was from a Middle Class family, but I never had anything against people that were rich, I admire that, I don’t envy you or anything like that.”
Now that you mention politics, I have a poignant question, with politics seeming to infuse our daily lives … Can you see how art and politics go together… obviously a political situation influenced your art and brought you to this country, in turn it influenced a painting like this. Castro’s Communism took a toll on the heart of Cuba’s artists, by twisting it into a propaganda tool and contorting the innocence and beauty of art to promote socialist themes while restricting artistic freedom. So I needed to know, does the political world affect art?
“I don’t know what would have happened, but I don’t think I would have ever been able to live in Cuba. I was very young, so when I came over here life brought me over here, I just hate that it exists when people want to change the world by doing such horrible things to other families.”
You migrated to New York in 1963 chasing freedom of expression for your expressionism, so how did living in New York City inspire your work?
“Oh My God! I became a New Yorker right away. I didn’t speak any English… I had the opportunity to arrive to this country, with two little paintings that I brought from Cuba. I started working immediately in advertising; We opened the first, Spanish advertising agency in the City of New York. I did the cover of the first Yellow Pages in New York, I paint most of the Yankees…”
When suddenly a quick giggle eludes Carreño, and he goes on to tell this quick moment in time, which imprinted upon him…
“…When I was living in Chelsea on 19th Street, Elston Howard, it was his birthday and he came over to my apartment, and all the Yankees, they came, and they all said ‘Pablo, I like you because you don’t talk to me about baseball…’”
The moment paid homage to the classic nostalgia that still breathes life throughout his works of art, as does the City of New York, and its 24/7 dose of free energy, that is always available for the taking. You see, I continued, no matter where you are in THE City, you can meet the most exuberant and extraordinary characters, which you never thought you would and those people in those moments can and will change your life forever, but that only happens in New York. The only city in the world, maybe besides Paris, that moments like that occur. So what is it about New York City, that excited Pablo, how did the City’s energy influence him?
“I first felt the energy of New York, when I arrived in the plane, I prefer that city, no matter what time it was, it is getting there that is amazing. I love The City, I wish I would be young again and I would be there again, because it is a city for young people, truly.”
Pablo, do you tuck messages in your art?
“Sometimes, yes. Some paintings, I like them because of the way that I paint it, and they are just a painting. Some other paintings are more mysterious and they have something to say.. [But they always mean something to you…] Yes.”
What does Art make you feel, when you are painting?
“Oh, Art is my life. My religion. My Everything. I am alive because the Art, because even at a time in my life when everything had changed, all I wanted to do was to continue my art.”
Now let’s mention your hands, you are quite noted for painting with your hands.. So tell us how you put a canvas on the floor and start painting with your hands?
“It’s amazing! When I was in New York, I did a few portraits of some very well known people and I used my hands a lot and after that I started using brushes, but I work with effect, I throw water, I play with the art and then I use my hands.”
What is your favorite subject to paint… what is it that you love?
“I like to paint a lot of women, I paint myself a lot, then I do shoes, I love Africa, I like Jazz, I am a fan of Charlie Parker, when I heard him in New York, I start painting and I did more than 40 paintings of him.”
What do you like to paint with, is there a texture, what do you use to paint?
“I use Water! [Water?] Yeah, water… Sometimes I put my paintings in the shower [Really? No?] I do an effect. I like to do effects, I paint all kinds of things, mostly acrylic and I did a few oils, but I like Acrylic because I can work it out with water …”
I heard you also like coffee, throwing coffee at paintings?
“Oh yeah, I can do a portrait in seconds and minutes just throwing coffee and paint.”
Upon asking him about the painting that was strewn atop us, he briefed me on the reasoning behind the pictures on the walls of the office around us.
“That one is a yellow shoe, I paint my shoes (the Boat) and then this is me arriving in Miami, it was a sea of Black Beans. And there I am going to Miami, I have the cover of the garbage can as a shield, and my brush [as your weapon] and my little suitcase.”
What is your dream for art in the future?
“My dream is to continue painting and to be able to make sure my paintings are in the right hands, because I love my paintings, so I would like to leave something, after I die that I could pass along… For young kids, just let them paint, with their hands, and let them be free.”
Do you hope that other people will be inspired to paint, by your art?
“I hope so. To tell you the truth, I was inspired all by myself, I love Picasso, Kokoschka the German, Michelangelo, I love the masters, van Gogh, Diego Rivera Mexican muralist… but when I started painting, it just came from inside.”
What are 5 words that describe you as an artist?
“Passion. Spontaneous. Love. Dedication. And Coffee Espresso.”
A big Thank You to Pablo Carreño for allowing The Y Life to share his magical world full of vibrant color and life with Millennials!