Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Barrington spent the first eight years of his childhood with his grandmother in Grenada. An underlying theme running through his paintings comes from this experience: paintings that feel like they belong in carnival culture, that give you a sense of time and space. They depict or contemplate on a romanticised Caribbean, one taken from memory and that no longer exists: ‘I mean, it’s that kind of idea of what’s real and when you’re thinking about the Caribbean, it can be anything. It’s your Caribbean.’ Barrington’s multimedia work is a result of his pulling apart of these childhood memories and extracting their materiality. Barrington began to sew as a way to explore historical and cultural references, connecting with his Grenadian aunts, who themselves were masterful sewers. The artist has explored the formal action of sewing as an access point into this otherwise traditionally gendered textile art practice.
Using materials including textiles, painting, mixed media, drawing, photography and print, his intimate compositions focus on single subjects in close-up: flowers, vegetation, facial expressions and body parts. Recurring motifs such as the hibiscus, the national flower of Jamaica that can be found ‘all over the Caribbean’ or phallic symbols, are often inspired by the works of others, highlighting the importance of dialogue in Barrington’s work: influence and exchange are integral to his practice. His use of burlap to make painting canvas, instead of the traditional cotton, stems from his observation of cacao production in Barbados, where beans are packed in burlap bags. The same associative logic that underpins his inspiration can be seen to permeate the accumulation of various mediums, themes and practices.
Photo: Jeremiah Cumberbatch
A Taste of Chocolate, Thaddaeus Ropac, London
Condo/ Alvaro Barrington, Emalin, London
Alvaro Barrington, MoMA PS1, New York
Natura Naturans, Mendes Wood, New York
Hog's Curve, Halsey McKay, East Hampton, New York
The Way Things Run (Der Lauf der Dinge) Part 1: Loose Ends Don’t Tie, PS120, Berlin
Widening the Gaze, Slade School of Fine Art, London
Woven, Rental Gallery, East Hampton, New York
The Sleeping Procession, Cass Sculpture Foundation, West Sussex