Camilo Restrepo

Tight Rope

September 12 – October 8, 2015
Opening Reception: September 12, 7-9

Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles
super sloth 1b-lores
Camilo Restrepo, Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Medellín, Colombia, Colombian artist, Tight Rope, pastel on paper, contemporary colombian artist, contemporary art Colombia, contemporary art gallery los angeles

Tight Rope, Installation view, Steve Turner, September 2015

Tight Rope, Installation view, Steve Turner, September 2015

Tight Rope, Installation view, Steve Turner, September 2015

Tight Rope, Installation view, Steve Turner, September 2015

Tight Rope, Installation view, Steve Turner, September 2015

Tight Rope, Installation view, Steve Turner, September 2015

Tight Rope, Installation view, Steve Turner, September 2015

Tight Rope, Installation view, Steve Turner, September 2015

Tight Rope, Installation view, Steve Turner, September 2015

Tight Rope, Installation view, Steve Turner, September 2015

Tight Rope #2 (Glass Joe), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 64 1/2 x 48 inches (164 x 122 cm)

Tight Rope #2 (Glass Joe), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 64 1/2 x 48 inches (164 x 122 cm) (detail)

Tight Rope #3 (Porky Pig), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 64 x 48 inches (162.6 x 122 cm)

Tight Rope #3 (Porky Pig), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 64 x 48 inches (162.6 x 122 cm) (detail)

Tight Rope #3 (Porky Pig), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 64 x 48 inches (162.6 x 122 cm) (detail)

Tight Rope #4 (Mike), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 64 1/2 x 48 inches (164 x 122 cm)

Tight Rope #4 (Mike), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 64 1/2 x 48 inches (164 x 122 cm) (detail)

Tight Rope #4 (Mike), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 64 1/2 x 48 inches (164 x 122 cm) (detail)

Tight Rope #1 (Kid Pambele), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 63 1/2 x 47 inches (161.3 x 119.4 cm)

Tight Rope #1 (Kid Pambele), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 63 1/2 x 47 inches (161.3 x 119.4 cm) (detail)

Tight Rope #6 (El Burro), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 63 x 47 inches (160 x 119.4 cm)

Tight Rope #6 (El Burro), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 63 x 47 inches (160 x 119.4 cm) (detail)

Tight Rope #5 (Black Shadow), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 64 x 48 inches (162.6 x 122 cm)

Tight Rope #5 (Black Shadow), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 64 x 48 inches (162.6 x 122 cm) (detail)

Tight Rope #7 (La Cosa), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 63 x 47 inches (160 x 119.4 cm)

Tight Rope #7 (La Cosa), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 63 x 47 inches (160 x 119.4 cm) (detail)

Tight Rope #8 (Super Sloth), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 86 x 87 inches (218.4 x 221 cm)

Tight Rope #8 (Super Sloth), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 86 x 87 inches (218.4 x 221 cm) (detail)

Tight Rope #9 (Bob), 2015. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper, 38 x 27 1/2 inches (96.5 x 70 cm)

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Steve Turner is pleased to present Tight Rope, a solo exhibition by Medellín-based artist Camilo Restrepo, whose works expose the uncontrollable, repetitive psychic battles that occur inside our heads as well as the destructive, real-world combat created by the drug wars in Colombia.

Each drawing features a boxer whose gloves reveal a lobotomized brain and a long rope that entangles every figure throughout the drawing. This rope also wraps around pulleys thereby creating stuck mechanisms that are full of cartoon-like characters and dysfunctional brains—all are involved in fights, violent situations and aggressive behaviors; in addition, they are all surrounded by nonsensical handwritten text.

The work is composed of square sheets of paper that Restrepo taped together before drawing on them. After he finished drawing, he separated the sheets and crumpled each one until all of the paper fibers were exhausted—the resulting texture of the paper is similar to that of a well worn piece of paper money. He then reattached the sheets with tape, but through the crumpling process, the drawing changed dramatically—the finished pieces are no longer flat, and as such, have acquired volume. They could hold air, and they appear tired and floppy.

Camilo Restrepo (born 1973, Medellín, Colombia), earned an MFA from CalArts (2013) and a masters degree in aesthetics from the National University of Colombia (2008). He has had solo or two-person exhibitions at Steve Turner (2013 & 2014; 2015); ARCO Madrid (2015); Untitled, Miami Beach (2013); Galería Santa Fe, Bogotá (2011); Casa Tres Patios, Medellín (2010); Galería de la Oficina, Medellín (2010) and LA Galería, Bogotá (2009). In 2010, Restrepo was nominated for the Premio Luis Caballero, the most important prize in Colombia for artists over 35.

Camilo Restrepo (born 1973, Medellín, Colombia), earned an MFA from CalArts (2013) and a masters degree in aesthetics from the National University of Colombia (2008). He has had solo or two-person exhibitions at Steve Turner (2013 & 2014; 2015); ARCO Madrid (2015); Untitled, Miami Beach (2013); Galería Santa Fe, Bogotá (2011); Casa Tres Patios, Medellín (2010); Galería de la Oficina, Medellín (2010) and LA Galería, Bogotá (2009). In 2010, Restrepo was nominated for the Premio Luis Caballero, the most important prize in Colombia for artists over 35.


Born 1973, Medellín
Lives and works in Medellín

Education

2013
MFA in Art, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California

2008
Masters in Aesthetics, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Medellín

Solo Exhibitions

2015
Tight Rope, Steve Turner, Los Angeles

2014
El Sueño De La Razón Produce Monstruos, Steve Turner, Los Angeles

2013
This is a Wound, Not Just The Drawing of a Hole, Steve Turner, Los Angeles

2011
Small figures on the ground, Premio Luis Caballero, Galería Santa Fe, Bogotá

2010
Recent works, Galería de La Oficina, Medellín
Small figures on the ground, Casa Tres Patios, Medellín

2009
This is a pipe, LA Galería, Bogotá

Selected Group Shows

2015
Expo Chicago (with Pablo Rasgado & Michael Staniak) (with Steve Turner, Los Angeles)
ARCO Madrid (with Pablo Rasgado) (with Steve Turner, Los Angeles)
Space Program, Steve Turner, Los Angeles

2014
Pinta London (with Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles)
Zona Maco (with Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles), Mexico City

2013
Untitled, Miami Beach (with Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles)
Uma linha de pó, Barracao Maravilha Arte Contemporanea, Rio de Janeiro
La gente en la colección del Museo, Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, Medellín

2012
Poetas en tiempos de escasez. El parqueadero Banco de la República, Bogotá

2011
Más allá de la Crisis, 6a Ventosul, Bienal de Curitiva, Museo Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil
Salón BBVA – Nuevos Nombres Banco de la Repúlbica, Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango, Bogotá

2010
42 Salón Nacional de Artistas, Museo Antropológico Universidad del Atlántico, Barranquilla
Premio Bienal de Artes Plásticas y Visuales Bogotá 2010, Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño, Bogotá
Casa Tres Patios – No Soul for Sale, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London

Awards and Distinctions

2011-2013
Fulbright Grantee, USA

2012
First place, XXII Salón Colombiano de Fotografía, Sala de Arte Suramericana de Seguros, Medellín

Bibliography

2014
Black, Ezrha Jean. “Pacific Standard Surreal – A wish list,” Artillery, May 8

2013
Cembalest, Robin. “Artwork on Violence in Colombia Too Dangerous for Art Fair in Miami,” ARTnews, December 4
Samuels, A.J. “When Art Gets Violent,” Artfetch, September


Art born of the drug wars: Camilo Restrepo on ‘narco bananas’ and pen-on-paper violence
Carolina A. Miranda, Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2015

Growing up in Medellín, Colombia, in the 1980s, artist Camilo Restrepo is all too familiar with the ravages of the drug war. There were the regular car bombs planted by the henchmen of cartel leader Pablo Escobar. There was the dead man in front of his house — the victim of a hit — covered up by a bright yellow blanket, one that had come from Restrepo’s own home. And there was the corpse left in the middle of the street, when Restrepo was just 5 years old.

He remembers that one especially well because it was Halloween. “I was dressed as a superhero,” he recalls. “And here we were looking at this dead body. It was so surreal.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 09: Camilo Restrepo attends Opening Party For The New Steve Turner  on January 9, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Steve Turner)

In his work, Restrepo has long explored questions of violence — specifically in ways that connect to the drug trade — but not in ways that you might expect. His sprawling, hyper-detailed drawings, some of which extend to wall-size, are cartoonish phantasmagorias of all kinds of aggression: maniacally grinning animated characters, silhouettes pricked by dagger-shaped forms, loose body parts gripping and grappling pieces of grotesque machinery — all of it woven together by a thick web of veins.
Despite the gross-out aspects, the pieces are absorbing and funny. “They’re drawings that explore aggression on the one side and on the other, the absurd,” he explains, “all in relation to one another.”

The pieces also do the serious work of mapping the ways in which Colombian society has been molded by the drug trade, chronicling the links between narcos and corrupt politicians, but also showing how narco-trafficking has transformed elements of culture, like language. (One of his go-to elements in his pieces are bits of text that he harvests from newspapers.)

Restrepo takes on some of these themes in his latest show, “Tight Rope,” at Steve Turner gallery in Hollywood — toying once again with the intersection of violence and the comically cartoonish. But this time, it isn’t just the morass of the drug trade he’s chronicling in his own work; it’s also the demons in his own head. Restrepo, now 42, was formally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in his late thirties, and these new works, to some degree, chronicle his mental health struggles, which he likens to “having a boxing ring all the time in your head.”

In fact, the artworks’ central images are various fighters — the Thing, Mike Tyson, the Hulk, Glass Joe (from the Nintendo game “Punch Out!!”) — all surrounded by Restrepo’s familiar web of insanity: politicians, puppets and cartoons all unleashing mayhem. The figures are all bound to one another by strands of tightrope.

“My work is about my experience,” he explains, “whether it’s about the drug war or dealing with other things — like the anxiety in my head.”

Restrepo was born and raised in Medellín, the son of middle-class parents who studied mechanical engineering in college. But a journey all around Latin America turned him onto the idea of becoming an artist.

“I really got into photography,” he says. “After that, I went and did a master’s degree in aesthetics.”

For a number of years, he worked as a teacher and a wedding photographer to make ends meet. Of the latter, he says: “Everyone thinks they are having a really unique wedding. But for me it was like ‘The Truman Show’ — it was the same thing every weekend.”

The job, however, allowed him free time in which to work on his own art, one that initially focused on the paraphernalia related to the drug trade. (He would take pictures of pipes and other objects related to distribution and consumption.) His early work led to some success: Restrepo showed his art in galleries and was nominated for the Premio Luis Caballero, a prestigious Colombian award.

Even so, in his late thirties, he decided he needed to take an artistic leap and enrolled in the MFA program at the California Institute of the Arts — a move that he says “totally changed my practice and my life.” It was while he was at CalArts that his anxiety disorder would be formally diagnosed and treated.

Interestingly, it was drawing — not photography — that he turned to for solace during the stressful first year of the program. “I kept a very personal sketchbook,” he recalls. “When I was done with a page, I’d cut it out and glue to the next. I was just drawing what came into my head — there was that same sense of hyperlinking that you see [in my work] now.”

But it took time for him to bring meaning to the drawings.
“My teacher kept asking me, ‘What’s the concept?'” he adds. “I told her, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, but I feel good about it.'”

By his third semester at CalArts, Restrepo had given up photography and other types of work to focus exclusively on drawing. It has been his chosen medium ever since.
And yet to label Restrepo’s work “drawing” doesn’t get at the half of it. With simple sheets of paper, he achieves almost three-dimensional effects. He’ll crumple and scrape the sheets until the paper achieves the looseness of fabric. He attacks the surface with ball-point pens. He’ll add a layer of color, then rub it off with saliva. To the surface he adds tape and bits of newspaper, among other elements.

Look at his works from a distance and you will see the graphic outlines of a central figure with a colorful backdrop. Get in close and you will see layers of lines, text, color, texture and materials.

“The paper is not just a surface,” Restrepo explains. “It’s a thing. It can be excavated.”

Turner, who has worked with Restrepo since 2013, says the artist has a truly physical relationship to his material.

“They’re much more sculptural than a drawing,” the gallerist says. “He doesn’t revere the paper. He treats that paper as if it’s wood to carve. And if he doesn’t like something, he’ll use a blade, something that is used to draw blood, and just scrape it away. So the scarring, the damage and the repair are really important.”

A large-scale work he showed at Turner in January, titled “Bowling for Medellín 1,” started off as a rubbing he made from the patch of Medellín sidewalk he was standing on when he found out that the notorious Escobar had been killed.
“That left a print on the paper,” Restrepo says. “It indexed that space onto the paper.”

To this, he added his signature layers of scrapings, cuts, tears, collage and wild drawings (including a depiction of Escobar). It’s bright red-and-yellow color palette makes the piece appear lively and bright from a distance. But the beaten texture of the paper reveals the artist’s aggressive methods.
“Camilo,” says Turner, “takes his works to the brink of destruction and then he revives them.”

And, of course, there’s the content. The cartoon-y nature of his work is quite intentional — capturing that intersection between violence and popular culture. Part of it comes from the childish nicknames that drug traffickers often give themselves — from “Felix El Gato” (Felix the Cat) to “Beto y Enrique” (Bert and Ernie). Some of the inspiration comes from his own life, of being a young boy dressed as a superhero, peering at a dead body.

“It’s not cartoons for the sake of nothing,” he says. “It’s something that exists in the world. It’s not metaphorical. In Colombia, you will read headlines about ‘Barney’ killing ‘El Chavo.'” (The latter a reference to the title character of a popular children’s show from Mexico.)

It is a marriage of visual and spoken language that, with the “Tightrope” series, he has adapted to his own struggles. And one he will continue to experiment with in other ways.

Currently, he is at work on a drawing series titled “El Bloc del Narco.” (“Bloc,” in Spanish, refers to a pad of paper.) In this series, he combs the news for references to the phrase “narco.” For example: If drugs are smuggled within a bag of beans, these are then dubbed “narco beans.” Or a chair stuffed with cocaine might be called a “narco chair.”

“Everything is ‘narco,'” Restrepo says. So, for two years now he’s been collecting these references and drawing a picture to represent each one. “If I see ‘narco horse,’ I draw a ‘narco horse.’ If ‘narco bananas’ are found in Germany, then I show ‘narco bananas.’ I do it one sheet at a time on the tablet of paper.”
Naturally, the exercise borders on the absurd. “What exactly is a ‘narco horse’?” asks Restrepo, chuckling. “I don’t know.”

Ultimately, it’s all part of Restrepo’s way of tackling the ways in which narco-culture has become the dominant culture in some parts of Colombia. “It’s all related to this nonsensical war on drugs,” he says. “It seems the more you fight, the more damage it seems to do to society.”

Not that there isn’t room for positivity. His drawings contain frequent references to Wonder Woman — a stand-in for his girlfriend.

Says the artist: “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

“Camilo Restrepo: Tight Rope” is on view at Steve Turner through Oct. 8. 6830 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, steveturner.la.

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