Diario is the debut of a new, commissioned installation by New York-based artist Angel Otero (b. 1981), the fourth in a series of Atrium Projects at Kemper Museum.

The artist’s largest painting to date, Diariounderscores the personal and universal significance of leaving a mark somewhere.

Otero’s physically rigorous and experimental processes and techniques over the past decade continue to push the boundaries of painting and abstraction. Early in his career Otero developed a process whereby he would create representational works on large sheets of glass.

He would then scrape the partially dried oil paint off of the surface, and reassemble the “oil skins,” as he refers to them, into multi-layered abstract collage compositions. For this installation, Otero took his process a step further by using previously discarded paintings and cut scraps from works he had saved in his studio over the past several years to compose a new painting, Diario.

Otero incorporates years of salvaged materials from his studio into this network of shapes and marks that are complexly puzzled together. This action of reclaiming older works parallels his longtime interest in retrieving memories from his childhood in Puerto Rico that are inlaid physically and conceptually into the painting.

By fusing these histories Otero creates a compelling composition of painting and found object, individual and layered brush strokes, and carefully selected objects—many found in antique shops throughout Kansas City—to emphasize the significance of leaving a mark somewhere, whether large or small, biographical or omnipresent, hidden or revealed.

In allowing some elements to rise to the foreground and others to recede, Otero creates a sense of intimacy, much like the content included in the pages of a private diary, hints of which begin to unfold for the viewer from within the layers of paint and canvas or from one’s own personal narrative imbedded in the familiar patterns of the crocheted material and parts of curled iron gates peeking out from areas of the painting.

Diario pays homage to the varying ways we record our lives, making our presence known in the world, by honoring those who have come before, those who we know and love in the present, and those who may engage in the future with the objects and marks we leave behind.

Angel Otero (b. 1981, Santurce, Puerto Rico; lives and works in Brooklyn, New York) received his MFA in 2009 and his BFA in 2007 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO (2019) the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York (2017); Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2016); Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain (2015); SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2013); and Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh, NC (2012).

Select group exhibitions and biennials featuring his work include Inherent Structure, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2018); Surface Area, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2016); Nexo / Nexus: Latin American Connections in the Midwest, DePaul Art Museum, Chicago (2016); 6th Prague Biennale (2013); El Museo BienalThe [S] Files, El Museo del Barrio, New York (2011) and Queens International 2012: Three Points Make a Triangle, Queens Museum, New York (2012), among others. Otero is the recipient of the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Visual Arts. His work can be found in collections at DePaul Art Museum, Chicago, IL; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS; the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC; and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA.