Alvaro Barrington (b. 1983, Caracas, Venezuela) Born in Venezuela to Grenadian and Haitian migrant workers, Alvaro Barrington was raised between the Caribbean and Brooklyn, New York, by a network of relatives. An unwavering commitment to community informs his wide-ranging practice. While Barrington considers himself primarily a painter, his artistic collaborations encompass exhibitions, performances, concerts, fashion, philanthropy and contributions to the Notting Hill Carnival in London. His approach to painting is similarly inclusive – embracing non-traditional materials and techniques such as burlap and sewing – and infused with references to his personal and cultural history.
Drawing on formative experiences with his grandmother in Grenada, Barrington creates richly textural mixed-media paintings on the burlap fabric used in Caribbean cacao production. The artist’s use of stitched yarn in paintings and postcards draws upon the traditionally gendered craft traditions passed down by the women in his family. His intimate compositions, rendered in a distinctive...palette of reds, browns, yellows and greens, often focus on single subjects in close-up: tropical vegetation, abstracted portraits and body parts. Recurring motifs such as the hibiscus, the national flower of Jamaica, conjure a romanticised view of the Caribbean that no longer exists except in memory.
Barrington paints vivid abstractions that consider the cultural production of subjects ranging from Hibiscus flowers to the life of Marcus Garvey. Raised between Brooklyn and the Caribbean, Barrington utilizes cross-disciplinary materials and crafts that often reference his childhood, including the sewing of his Grenadian aunts. In his early work Barrington experimented with “copying” artists like Willem de Kooning, Henry Taylor, and Howard Hodgkin. The influence of such artists, whose work Barrington highlighted in a 2019 show he curated entitled Artists I Steal From at Galerie Thaddeus Ropac in London, can be felt in the bold, gestural quality of his compositions. Recent solo exhibitions include Sadie Coles, London (2019); Emalin, London (2019); Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London (2018); Emalin, London (2018); and MoMA PS1, New York (2017).
Influence and exchange are integral to Barrington’s work. He references personal touchstones including rapper Tupac and 90s hip-hop culture, jazz and the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, Jamaican political activist Marcus Garvey, modernist icons such as Willem de Kooning and Louise Bourgeois, and his art-world peers. In his recent, small-scale Date Paintings, Barrington considers different approaches to abstraction through the work of his predecessors including Paul Klee, Agnes Martin and Mark Rothko. Experimenting with the ‘logic’ found within these other artists’ work, Barrington translates it into his own idiom through simplified palettes, grid forms and expressive, bold brushstrokes.
Barrington, who has been involved in community activism, studied at Hunter College, New York, and The Slade School of Fine Art in London, where he started lecturing in 2019. His first solo exhibition, which opened the same year he graduated, was curated by Klaus Biesenbach at MoMA PS1, Queens, in 2017. His work has since been shown in numerous solo and group shows, including A Taste of Chocolate at Thaddaeus Ropac, London (2018) and his ongoing Tt x AB collaboration with the painter Teresa Farrell. Barrington co-curated the exhibition Artists I Steal From with Julia Peyton-Jones at Thaddaeus Ropac, London in 2019, followed by his solo exhibition You don’t do it for the man, men never notice. You just do it for yourself, you're the fucking coldest at Thaddaeus Ropac Paris Marais gallery in 2021.