Asa part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Hernán Rivera Luque. Hernán Rivera Luque was born in Santiago, Chile, and currently lives and works in New York City. His work has been shown in exhibitions at Museo del Barrio, NY, Y Gallery, NY, Foundation Hippocrène, Paris, Die Ecke Gallery, Santiago, Chile, The New School, NY, and Gitana Rosa Gallery, NY, Museo de la Memoria, Santiago, Chile; La Capella, Barcelona, Spain; Museo de Art Contemporáneo, Santiago, Chile; and Museo de Arte Precolombino e Indígena, Uruguay, amongst others. He is currently part of the Residency program of Painting Space 122 — Project Studio Program, NY.
(Photo By Hernán Rivera Luque)
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up? It is my pleasure! So, I grew up in Santiago, Chile in a middle-class family, during the time of the dictatorship rule under Pinochet. The experience of living through this tumultuous time in Chile would come to influence many of my thought processes and my work. I moved to NYC in 2012, where I reside currently. Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path? As a child, I was often sick, so I would spend a lot of time lying in bed drawing cartoons and my family recognized that I had some talent in drawing and always encouraged it. I had the opportunity to study in advanced university art classes where I started to meet people I really connected with. I was always very interested in philosophy and poetry, and it became very important for me to constantly ask questions and challenge what I accepted as truth, especially during that time, which was a very dark time in Chile. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career? I was a part of a collective called O-INC for 8 years (2001–2008) and in 2007, we were invited to create a site-specific land art piece in the Atacama desert in Chile. The piece was meant to be seen from the sky. It was a large-scale production involving sewing a football field-sized plastic fabric into words that spelled out Esto no es América (This is not America) set within a comic thought bubble. It was a play on the Alfredo Jaar piece, A Logo for America (1987) but was also meant to point to the irony that even though South Americans are most certainly Americans, perhaps not necessarily being recognized as such was a good thing during the time of the Iraq war. The piece also spurred a lot of conversation with the indigenous community there which added a further layer because of the fact that they were fighting to reclaim the name of the land before colonization. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? I am super excited to be collaborating with La Pera Projects, a fresh, new platform that uses WhatsApp to share curated art by some of the hottest, new artists to members every two weeks. I think their focus on offering artwork at an affordable price point, especially during the pandemic is very important and will hopefully engage new collectors. Founders Clara Andrade Pereira and Blanca Pascual Baztán designed the platform to revolutionize the traditional four white walls concept to bring art directly and intimately to members all over the world via their phones. I am also very excited to be a part of the residency program at Painting Space 122 which has given me access to a large studio space centrally located in the lower east side of NYC. Having that space to spread out has helped my work tremendously and has allowed me to explore new directions. Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories? One person who really sticks out in my mind is Eugenio Dittborn, a Chilean painter. He was my teacher and I considered him a mentor. He was really influential to me and my artistic practice. We had some very good evenings discussing many things over many glasses of wine. Another really important connection for me was meeting the independent curator Omar Lopez Chahoud. I met him right after moving to NYC and we became close friends. He introduced me to many people in the art world, at a time when I was just arriving and learning to navigate the city. Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that? I try to draw most of my inspiration from my everyday environment and daily routines. I also find inspiration through my research and interest in political and social issues. A lot of my work consists of recycling materials and objects I find, creating something new from the already existing elements. For example, the work I have been making for a few years now consists of collages made from various public advertisements. I cut up the materials to disrupt their original meaning and intent. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Most of my work is born from concepts and philosophies that would encourage us to question authority, and what we perceive as the truth or normality. The collages and the work I do now approach these topics in a more subtle way than it did when I was working with my collective, but it is certainly still there. I don’t know if this brings “goodness” to the world, but I do believe that when you practice critical thinking it provides one with a greater sense of freedom. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”; and why. Please share a story or example for each. If I was giving advice to a young artist now, I would say the following 5 things that were really important to me and my growth:
See as much art as possible and visit as many galleries as you can. You will learn more about yourself, what you like, how you would like to present your own work. You’ll think about the dialogue your own work might create if it was showcased amongst other artists’ work that you respect.
Try to travel as much as you can. Obviously, this isn’t realistic right now, but when it is safe to do so again, do it. You also don’t necessarily need a lot of money to travel. I was able to do a lot of traveling as a student, and this experience of meeting different people and cultures was extremely important to me and my work.
Practice your art. Know that you won’t always make a masterpiece, but it is important to continue creating. Make the time to create and time to think about your work. Know that you will come across times of stagnation, but you just need to continue.
Show people your work. Studio visits are very important because creating work in a vacuum will not help you to grow.
But at the same time, take what people say with a grain of salt. Art is always subjective and you still need to maintain a healthy dose of confidence in what you are doing and what you are putting out into the world.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-) I would love to somehow inspire new channels of listening to one another. We are so polarized right now; in the states, in Chile, and in so many other places. You have your team and I have mine — it is extremely dangerous. This divide has eroded, and deeply damaged our understanding of each other as human beings. I don’t have an answer, but I do feel it is one of the most important issues of our time. I do not yet see how we can come back from this division, but I am hopeful that we can. We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this. Well, hmm, I think I would say Yusaku Maezawa or Elon Musk. It would be amazing to see what changes they could bring to the art world, specifically through investments in emerging artists and programs in areas of the world that aren’t already considered capitols of the industry.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media? I am on Instagram @hernanriveraluque. You can also visit hernanriveraluque.com. This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us! Thank you so much for the opportunity!
(Photo By Hernán Rivera Luque)
Author/Interviewer: Edward Sylvan