So, who exactly is talented, abstract artist Rafael Serrano? What inspires him to create such dreamy pieces of artwork? Whether you are attracted to the mystical, deep blues and purples or the vibrant reds -- one thing is for sure. The artwork of Rafael Serrano will affect you. Rafael Serrano comes from a family of medical doctors and scientists and a few artists too. When he was 12 years old, he landed in LA directly from Cuba, but his parents are Spanish. Although he has traveled the world, Serrano has lived in LA ever since. Since he was little, Rafael remembers wanting to be a painter, highly encouraged by his father, who thought science was not his calling but was rather impressed by his artistic endeavors and talent. He has an MFA from Otis College of Art and Design and has exhibited his work internationally.
Rafael Serrano considers himself a neo-surrealist, shaped by Man Ray, Max Ernst, Dada, and Picasso. "Most of my work is the product of my subconscious," said the eclectic artist." "I'm interested in the soul of humanity and the inner workings of the mind enhanced by a poetic vision," expressed Serrano.
Since Serrano is both a painter and a photographer, he likes to combine both mediums. Rafael starts by making a miniature painting that he will collage over. Then he photographs the work and puts it into Photoshop to manipulate the palette, the contrast, and pick out the colors he wants to play with. Serrano blows these images up to 20 x 24 inches, then repaints or collages over the print. Sometimes he photographs them, yet again. His final pieces often move through six generations of paint, collage, and photography.
Rafael's work has been exhibited in various Museums such as LACMA in LA, The Alternative Museum in NY, as well as the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi, Georgia. He is also in the permanent collection of The Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. Additionally, he is presently represented in Berlin by EAF (Enter Art Foundation), a great German art institution dedicated to representing contemporary artists throughout the world.
When Gemma Magazine spoke with Art Critic Peter Frank, he said his first reaction to Serrano's work was fascination and admiration tinged with repulsion -- "Rafael's work was quite different in 1990 than it is today," said Peter Frank. Peter's opinion today of Serrano's work is much the same, but the repulsion has dissipated, replaced with a slightly electric dreaminess. However, Peter noted that each piece has its vibe, which sometimes doesn't come (ultimately) through at first glance so that the experience can change. "Rafael's paintings are all about carefully determined compositions (although they can look entirely random), so balance is everything," said Frank. In terms of how Peter Frank would describe Rafael Serrano's work to someone who has never seen it? Water-bound creatures, perhaps seen through a microscope that could be living in another world.
When Rafael had a moment to stop, he took some time to chat with Gemma Magazine about his creative processes, inspiration, and vision. Lucky us!
You say that your work is connected to humanity and want to know what it means to live. Can you please expand?
I am very interested in the meaning of life and, yes, what it means to live. I don't want to take life for granted but rather try to uncover as much of its mystery as I can. Humanity is the Cosmos I wish to navigate and penetrate.
Where do you get a lot of your inspiration?
I have a continuous conversation with my work. One piece leads to another, much like answers to some unresolved mystery or mysterious entity proposing these questions to me, which I can only respond to with my art and poetic expression. I sometimes read a poem and immediately visualize it, often with abstract forms and shapes and colors. Also, ideas reveal themselves to me as I'm driving and notice an interesting incident on the street or an unusual situation which I later may write about in the form of a poem. Then I also paint things that mysteriously pop to my mind. From there, I see myriad possibilities as I play around with the work introducing other elements to it, much like a scientist in a laboratory would do just as my father, the Chemist, did.
How does your work sustain you?
I used to teach off-and-on college-level classes in Perspective drawing, but I got burned out from teaching and did not have enough time to produce my work, so I decided to quit to be a full-time "Poet" again.
Can you take us through some of your creative processes?
I feel things out and find myself having a conversation with my Universe. The Universe of shapes and colors in association with feelings and sensations plus my other interests such as History, Anthropology, Psychology, and various mysteries that only reveal themselves to me when I paint or write.
Do you usually have a strong vision for each piece? A lot of abstract paintings filled with flowers lately and vibrant colors that are just gorgeous ~
My vision is often another mystery to me but one that I genuinely enjoy and wonder about. Where does it come from, I sometimes ask myself. Is it magic? Sometimes I feel it is, haha! But my vision is also a product of my preoccupation with things and people I care about, plus my intellectualism and interest again in Psychology, Poetry, and the Arts in general
On behalf of Gemma Magazine, we would like to thank Artist Rafael Serrano for the insightful interview. We will keep up with Rafael's gorgeous work and you can as well. His social media is the following: