Alvaro Barrington

Alvaro Barrington

Venezuelan
b. 1983
/

Overview

'When you look at my paintings, you’re encountering parts of my identity. I grew up in a culture where it was really about erasing hierarchies, where we’re all participating in cultural production.'

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.

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. 

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 Mixing It Up: Painting Today at the Hayward Gallery, London (2021), 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 our Paris Marais gallery in 2021.

Videos

Play
Pause
Alvaro Barrington You don't do it for the man, men never notice. You just do it for yourself, you're the...
You don't do it for the man, men never notice.
You just do it for yourself, you're the fucking coldest
Play
Pause
Alvaro Barrington; A Focus in Painting at Thaddaeus Ropac London Ely House (2020)
Alvaro Barrington
Play
Pause
Group Exhibition Artists I Steal From
Artists I Steal From
Play
Pause
A Focus on Painting with Katy Hessel
with Katy Hessel
Play
Pause
Frieze Talk | Painting Today Alvaro Barrington, Mandy El-Sayegh, Rachel Jones and Dona Nelson, chaired by Julia Peyton-Jones
Alvaro Barrington, Mandy El-Sayegh, Rachel Jones and Dona Nelson, chaired by Julia Peyton-Jones
Play
Pause
Artist's Eye Alvaro Barrington
Alvaro Barrington

Publications

News and Press

News and Press

Atmospheric image Atmospheric image
Atmospheric image Atmospheric image
Atmospheric image Atmospheric image