Hely Omar Gonzalez, a revered Long Beach artist known well for his 365 portrait paintings and his work at the New Americans Gallery is taking a completely different approach to his practice. With a newly found reflective awareness, Gonzalez is now painting non-objectively and abstractedly.
“This work now is about coming to understand that art is not just this thing that we think it is. It can be so much more. It’s open-ended since it’s a direct reflection of life itself.”
On Sunday, December 7, you can view Gonzalez’ new breadth of work, curated by Sally Lee, at District Wine.
Gonzalez said, “Coming from the portrait project, which was the same thing every single day... I came to see the face in an abstract way that had never experienced before and I started to play around a lot with the paintings toward the end of the project. They became experiments in color and perception.”
As an artist who had holed himself into one objective, painting the faces of 365 locals, a portrait was no longer a portrait but a series of shapes, colors and lines. His new work reflects this exploration on a much larger scale.
“That’s when these things started happening,” he continued, pointing at the colorcentric, abstract paintings leaning on the wall. “I was trying to see how little you can give and still tell a big story at the same time.”
Gonzalez’s new breadth of work is a complete departure from painting people, and above all, things. Each painting is an exploration and a far cry outside the limits of his comfort zone, as he comes from a background of painting objects as they’re seen, not how they can be interpreted.
“These pieces are definitely inspired by the notion of exploration. I call them my cosmic abstractions,” he said.
Whether the artist is questioning the traditional definition of a frame or imagining his fabric paintings wrapped around a lightbox, Gonzalez is re-defining his life as an artist in a way that unlimits his creative potential. Instead of painting subjects, he plays with the paint and what the spontaneous shapes can do for the viewer psychologically.
“This one is called Speed of Light,” he said, gesturing toward the largest piece in the room, a kind of sepia-toned fine art interpretation of what jumping into warp speed might look like.
“These pieces are about using different media in different ways with a highly contrasting kind of imagery and how it can create a psychological resonance within us. We start to imagine these wild things, almost like a Rorschach.” Instead of stars, however, the viewer might feel physically moved, while at the same time, begin to notice the sword-like stain or feather-shaped marks emanating from the center.
Gonzalez hopes that his pieces will at least inspire his viewers to interact with one another. “I think that they will at least open up little discussions about what people think something is and then someone else’s perspective on it,” he concluded.
You can follow the artist on Instagram @helyomargonzalez. District Wine is located at 144 Linden Ave. and Hely's opening reception will be held on Sunday, December 7, from 6PM to 7PM.