Written by Alexis Mendoza
"As a complex being with rich, inner lives, one role is hardly satisfying for an artist. We are not easily defined by a single identity." --AM
"Archetypes" series by Franck de las Mercedes. (Boricua College, Bronx, NY)
As a contemporary artist, you should be trying to make something that hasn’t been thought of before, that has a real stake in authorship, in originality, and that offers a unique understanding of the world. Franck de las Mercedes believes that he should always be making something that it’s true to himself and that defines who he is without chasing originality. “The idea is to go against the idea.” He believes that originality and things that haven’t been seen before are byproducts: “You stumble upon them, or they inevitably find you as the result of constant work and dedication in your practice. But it can’t be chased.”
The human body is central to how we understand facets of identity. Many artists explore the connectivity through representations of their being by using their own bodies in their creative process. The concept of self-presence is inherently linked to the concept of self-consciousness; and the concept of portraiture, is linked to consciousness. What is the message or meaning of self-portraiture? Why do artists decide to create self-interpretations or visual archives of their presence, and decidedly so in a particular time and space? The question answers itself. The self-portrait declares: “I exist!” Whether abstract, subtle, or intimately detailed, the self-portrait is inherently autobiographical.
In his series of “Archetypes” Franck experiments with negating the self through hiding or masquerading within the works. Known for painting large abstracts and expressionistic works for most of his career, the challenge for the artist in the last two years was to tap into more representative subject matter, and experiment with hybrid techniques that would allow him to tell a story. It’s proven effective considering the smaller scale, and yet he finds the need for expansion in the grouping of works in the exhibition space, as if it all is part of a large painting.
When we look at Franck de las Mercedes’ body of work, we can ask ourselves, what is the most interesting aspect of his work: the images, the narrative, or the process to get to the result? Documentation has become an essential element in Franck’s artform, and this documentation becomes an art unto itself. “Archetype” holds a privileged position in his art with its unique ability to mirror reality with such accurate and detailed precision.
However, de las Mercedes’ inherently documentary-like approach to painting is critical in his use of the medium to question our perceptions of reality. Its realistic nature is often exploited by the artist’s elaborate fiction, created within the format. Though the narrative and message in the work have become the most essential element in his practice, they go hand in hand. Working with digitally rendered or sketched imagery, offers an element of surprise that can change the process or narrative. This in turn can conceptually or technically become a revelation to the artist himself in the final result.
Often appearing in his own paintings as a myriad of characters, most of his work seems to stage events; events that fail to take place or have not happened yet, capturing the tension, anxiety, or emotions in that split moment before something happens. It’s my opinion that Franck de las Mercedes’ creations describe the vertiginous thinking and speed of contemporary existence; it catches the nightmare’s lack of moorings as well as the potential for consoling, even exhilarating, freedoms.
Diagnosed with “Intrusive Thoughts OCD” in his mid 20s, a condition from which he suffered most of his life, the artist turned to painting as a way to cope. He didn’t expect art to offer relief, but soon discovered that painting offered a vehicle for self exploration. “My paintings always delved into what I consider to be the root, found in childhood events, family ruptures, and displacement. More than depicting specifics, I’ve always been interested in capturing vertigo and the way my mind is flooded with racing thoughts in a matter of seconds. I see a direct similarity in the way we live today in this age of mass digital activity.”
As a complex being with rich, inner lives, one role is hardly satisfying for an artist. We are not easily defined by a single identity. The work enables us to create a realm where we can express our past selves, repressed selves, desires, maladies of the mind, intellectual interests or to fantasize about being someone altogether different than ourselves.
Franck De las Mercedes’ artworks can be an escape into a world where he has full creative control– not surprisingly in a reality where he can often feel that he has little control over. FdlM craves the world where he is free to be anyone that he chooses to be.
Interdisciplinary artist, independent curator, and author
Curated by Alexis Mendoza, the exhibit presents works tackling the vertiginous thinking and speed of contemporary existence. A public opening reception will take place on Thursday April 7, from 6pm-9pm at The Boricua College Art Gallery (890 Washington Ave, Bronx, NY 10451) and the show will remain on view through April 30, 2022.