Rafael Delacruz: Healing Finger Clean Drawings at Mitchell Innes & Nash

RAFAEL DELACRUZ Don't sleep while we explain 2022
Rafael Delacruz, Don’t sleep while we explain, 2022, oil and cochineal on canvas, photo courtesy @ Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Neither the exhibition text nor the online imagery, although both generous, adequately primed me for Rafael Delacruz’s spellbinding painting exhibition at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. The moment I stepped into the gallery, I was engulfed in a world with vibrant enigmatic narratives, layered as a fusion of drawing, lino-cut-like marks, and a kaleidoscope of restless patterns, all shimmering under the play of vivid paint. The paintings reveal recognizable elements like cars or figures while hiding drawings underneath, daring us to embark on a delightful game of artistic hide and seek.

In some canvases Rafael Delacruz, who is a self-taught painter, uses Cochineal, a vibrant natural dye extracted from a cactus-devouring parasite. With a storied cultural history of adorning the capes of Catholic clergy and the coats of English soldiers, Cochineal seems to assume a prominent role in Delacruz’s artistic alchemy. Through tireless experimentation, the artist has ingeniously transmuted the dye into a paint medium.

But no matter what paint medium Delacruz uses, all his paintings are luminous and conjure an indeterminate yet utterly convincing landscapes. They remind me of a fata morgana in a desert—where stability slips through our grasp and illusions abound. The elongated horizontal painting Don’t sleep while we explain is one of the more figurative paintings, where a multitude of human and animal characters form a captivating crowd, standing before a pale pinkish curved horizon while enigmatic geometric shapes loom in the distant background. The amalgamation of faces, bodies, and avian presences meld harmoniously, giving birth to a feral entity that bears resemblance to Ensor’s congregations, though in an abstracted form. This composite presence takes shape amidst a milieu evocative of Milton Avery-esque landscape, further accentuating the nuanced visual interplay

Rafael Delacruz, Don’t sleep while we explain, detail, photo by Etty Yaniv

As I immerse myself into the intricate details of Delacruz’s paintings, I am entranced by the juxtapositions within the canvas. Healing finger clean drawings, is a more scattered landscape, where a diminutive car takes on the guise of a toy, next to it, enticing floral shapes reside beside traces of plant drawings, and bulbous red, pink and gray clouds hover above. It is a beguiling and flattened space that defies conventional logic, yet makes total sense in its inner visual logic—like glimpsing at a landscape from a speeding car. Delacruz’s paintings have a powerful visceral impact with an elusive, airy and radiant quality—both timeless and timely.

RAFAEL DELACRUZ Healing finger clean drawings 2023
Healing finger clean drawings, 2023, oil and lithographic print on canvasRafael Delacruz, photo courtesy @ Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Rafael Delacruz: Healing Finger Clean Drawings

Mitchell-Innes & Nash June 1-July 7, 2023 534 W 26th St, NY, NY

About the writer: Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: artspielblog@gmail.com