Spanierman Modern is pleased to present the exhibition Renewing the Past: Constructions by Demetrio Alfonso, on view through July 16, 2011. An artist who works with objects picked up on the streets of New York, Alfonso has a veneration for the past, which is expressed throughout his art. His mixed-media constructions reveal the beauty of his materials, imbuing his resulting works with an ancient and mystical symbolism, while embodying sensual and spiritual forces through direct physicality.
While made of what might be thought of as detritus-rusty nails, bits of broken sidewalk, old hinges, cloth remnants, weathered, decaying pieces of wood, and newspaper fragments-the elements in Alfonso’s works bespeak precious jewels and opulent materials. To these, he adds accents, often painting or burning them to create a patina of age, while building up encrusted paint surfaces and embedding semi-precious stones. In their rich surfaces and luminosity, his works evoke Medieval reliquaries, a legacy no doubt of the artist’s remembrances of the cathedrals he visited while growing up as a Catholic boy in Spain. There are no relics within them, but referencing secret compartments, archetypal signs, enigmatic runic forms, and figurative elements, they embody a spiritual, sensual, and mysterious essence beyond the everyday. What they contain may not in the end be material, but a reminder not to forget the past, keeping and respecting it through caretaking and acts of beautification.
One of nine children, Alfonso was born in the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa. After his father’s early death and a youth spent in Spain, he studied art in Cuba, receiving classical training in painting at the San Alejandro Art School in Havana. In the 1970s , he emigrated to the United States, furthering his studies at the School of Visual Arts and the Art Students League. Initially he painted in an academic mode, receiving acclaim for his skilled work, but when he began to create art that was more for himself, his current approach emerged, the harmonies of composition and color in his designs reflecting his great appreciation for many artistic traditions. Due recognition has followed, in particular the honor Alfonso received in 2009, when his work was chosen from that of over six hundred artists to receive a gold medal at the Florence Biennial.
Alfonso has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in this country and abroad and his work is included in many private and public collections, including the Modern Art Museum, Shanghai, China; the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, Shanghai, China; and St. Augustine Church, Union City, New Jersey.