Félix Bonilla Gerena working during his residency at Tripoli Gallery. COURTESY TRIPOLI GALLERY
The work of Félix Bonilla Gerena, the current artist-in-residence at Tripoli Gallery, will be on view in “Los Delirios en la Pintura,” an exhibition opening with a reception for the artist on Saturday, April 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. and running through May 23 at the Wainscott gallery. The work is a series of paintings completed during Gerena’s month-long residency in the Wainscott gallery. Bonilla Gerena’s work is a layered cacophony of gestures and colors using abstraction and figuration to tell a story all his own.
Félix Bonilla Gerena was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico in 1968 and still calls the island home. Tripoli Patterson and Bonilla Gerena have worked together regularly since 2008 with their first exhibition together in a barn in Bridgehampton that now is Topping Rose House. They continued their collaboration in 2009 with the debut exhibition of Tripoli Gallery on Jobs Lane Southampton, then again in 2010, 2012 and 2015. Bonilla Gerena returned to the East End during Hurricane Maria in 2017 working out of a studio attached to Patterson’s home. During his 2022 residency, the artist has allowed himself to shed anxiety and indecision in favor of elegance and clarity. Line turns to form and form turns to line in a silent concert made of paint.
“Los Delirious en la Pintura” translates to, “The Delirious in the Painting,” and the artist’s new work is indeed a richly lyrical feat. Using the landscapes of Puerto Rico as his point of departure, his work is as lush and direct, as it is mysterious. Landscapes meet seascapes, interiors meet exteriors, and nude figures emerge from abstract grounds. While two of these works were initiated five years ago on linen from the 1950s found in Carlos Basaldua’s old studio, others were started from scratch on premade stretched canvases. The work moves through personal and cultural moments of anxiety. It oscillates, giving clues as to what the artist might be thinking, and then descending back into abstraction. In these works he explores long standing motifs that have appeared throughout his oeuvre, notably the ocean, palm trees, landscapes and the female form. He transports the vitality and vibrancy of La Bajura, his homeland, through his physical being and painterly gestures.
The last two works completed in his residency, “La Danza de las Dos Lunas” (The Dance of Two Moons), and “La Virgen del Carmen” Protectora de los Pescadores, 2022, were done on carpet used to protect the gallery floors throughout the duration of Bonilla Gerena’s residency. Bonilla Gerena found both works incredibly crucial to the exhibition.
“There is still a cultural importance of the Sea God, La Virgen del Carmen, in Puerto Rico and many other Latin American Countries that prayed to her and gave offerings to protect their fisherman and provide bountiful catches before a Christian God was introduced to the islands by the Europeans” says the artist.
“I love the parallel histories of the Puerto Rican fishing culture and that of the earlier whalers and ‘Widow Walks’ built into the architecture of the old Sag Harbor homes where the wives would walk in hopes of seeing their husbands’ whaling ships returning,” added gallery founder Tripoli Patterson. “There is a power to the ocean, specifically when people embark into the deep seas without assuredness of coming back.”
Tripoli Gallery is at 26 Ardsley Road, Wainscott. For more information, visit tripoligallery.com or call 631-377-3715.
One fine body…