Visions Exhibit Catalog Essay by Dawna Kemper
“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” ~ T.S. Eliot
Dynamic forms swimming in a groundless void; ghost-echoes of motion, like a dream half-remembered, trailing sweeps of light. The paintings of Alfredo Marín-Carle are true poetry, conveying nuanced states of spirit, emotion, memory, and consciousness through complex layers of matter, color, and gesture.
Marín-Carle’s most recent paintings convey a sensation of mysteries veiled but on the verge of revelation. Like the Indian painter V.S. Gaitonde, whom he cites among his influences, the work is mesmerizing, inviting the viewer to slow, breathe, contemplate. In this, the viewer actively co-creates with the artist, drawing on their own imagination in a way that allows the mystery to surface from the deep well of shared humanity.
This idea of a Jungian collective unconscious is a steady underpinning for Marín-Carle’s current collection of paintings. He has also noted two other direct inspirations for these works. One is the Russian artist Vasily Kandinsky and his belief that art should be an expression of its creator’s inner vision and spirit transmitted to the viewer in a harmonic flow of color, rhythm, and form, a kind of “visual music.”
In service of this, Marín-Carle’s work strips away the forms’ identification as “objects” and relies on more intuitive modes of communicating, an extension of the artist’s spirit that engages connection with the viewer in frequencies both singular and universal. His work moves like improvisational jazz that expands freely and unexpectedly, yet coalesces around a grounded central theme.
The second direct inspiration is Marín-Carle’s embrace of Tibetan Buddhism, in particular The Tibetan Book of the Dead, an instructional guide through the bardo, the transitional journey from physical death to the next incarnation. These paintings subtly suggest the evolving phases of consciousness, beyond human time, as the soul or spirit processes its earthly existence and progresses toward its next rebirth. As manifested in these works, colorful forms sweep through or are suspended in an eternal ocean of being, sometimes sanguine, sometimes agitated, and in other cases, purely joyful.
For example, Vision 18 is hot, its central grounding form suggesting ancient aqueduct seen through a fiery veil under a scorching sun. Colors and layers peel back to reveal suggestions of a desert landscape animated by the noisy chatter of an unknowable language. In contrast, Vision 20 is an underwater fantasia, primordial greens and muted aqua, flowing in a boundless, elegant dance. In Vision 17, the dance is playful, softened forms swirling in inviting pinks and blues, yet the background remains a darkened mystery, a reminder that even in exuberance, the shadow is inescapable.
His original influence, of course, is his father and mentor, Augusto Marin, one of the most revered Puerto Rican artists of the 20th century. In Marín-Carle’s early work in particular, the fluidity, vitality, and gestures reveal a creative DNA passed from father to son. Yet Marín-Carle quickly developed his own idiosyncratic vision and style, moving away from his father’s Cubist influences and undulating figures, and pursuing an energetic, sometimes wild, profusion of line work and bold color.
Over time, Marin-Carle’s work transitioned into more subdued realms of interiority, influenced by his study of Buddhism and Jungian concepts. The initial paintings in his mid-career series were organized on a grid of automatic writing, inspired by artists like Cy Twombly and Mark Tobey, symbols reminiscent of calligraphy or Japanese kanji, yet entirely and spontaneously created by Marín-Carle. The lack of explicit meaning, yet the suggestion of denotation of some kind, allows the viewer to respond via their own intuitive and emotional response, relying on color and texture to lead toward a subjective interaction with the work.
In his current paintings, Marín-Carle has reduced or foregone completely the notations and instead focused on the interplay of color, light, abstract forms, and depth. In their vitality, they suggest a fusion of matter and energy, reminiscent of the intersection between quantum theory and Buddhist teachings on spirituality. They invite the viewer to ponder not only the realm of consciousness presented before them on canvas, but their own subjective potential and desire for connection with the numinous.
Dawna Kemper’s work has appeared in Ecotone, ZYZZYVA, The Kenyon Review, Santa Monica Review, and other national literary journals. She lives in Los Angeles where, in addition to teaching, she works as an editor of fiction and creative nonfiction, and co-curates an ongoing literary reading series.