Artist interview with Dwight Portocarrero

Dwight Portocarrero, Artist

Oui.Gallery Interviews Dwight from his Tribeca studio.

Introduction of the artist

Dwight Portocarrero is an artist lives and works in New York and Venezuela. He explores the precarious state of our ecosystem through sculpture, living installations and works on canvas. Recently, Oui presented two of his third nature hybrid plant sculptures in his Chinese Evergreen Hybrid, 2019 series. The delicate, transparent resin leaves and exposed soil of the sculptures question our comfort in the face of domesticating nature. He revealed and shown us the fragility of our ecosystem and gave us a glimpse into the nature of the future.

In this interview, Oui Gallery and Dwight Portocarrero launched an in-depth conversation to discuss his understanding and beliefs among his hometown, dreams and art, and to describe the mental journey behind his artistic creation. Interviewing Dwight is a surprising experience. As an interviewer, it is difficult to assume how he understands the world, and it is also difficult to establish a direct connection between his dream and his artwork in a structural way. All of these made the artist mysterious and enlightening.

Dwight Portocarrero, Chinese Evergreen Hybrid, 2019. 28 in x 22 in, Leaf, resin, wire, earth, steel plate.
Dwight Portocarrero, Chinese Evergreen Hybrid, 2019. 28 in x 22 in, Leaf, resin, wire, earth, steel plate.

When did you realise that you wanted to become an artist? Or what made you decide to become one?

Don’t think I choose to be an artist. I simply had a dream while being far away from home in Beijing, in the midst of all I was attempting to understand my unconscious thoughts…I tried to externalize that dream, it resulted in the form of a sculpture. Working constantly with my hands, during my training in architecture and working with Ai WeiWei right off college, I was exposed to sculpture as a vehicle for expressing ideas.

How does your home country of Venezuela and living in New York influence the creation of your artworks? And how would you identify yourself within these two different cultures?

My dream took place in Venezuela, in my childhood home, in a small garden. This garden and the context around it has become an obsession, from the simplest things it has evolved to more complex questions; from plant species to history, family traditions, to sociopolitical chaos: you’d be surprise how the garden reflects back to life. The monochrome garden in white came to me in a dream while I was far away from my Caribbean roots; I believe is true, sometimes you have to be outside and/or far to see, feel, and recognize more clearly… Being in New York has augmented the effect of recognizing: in being far from the garden, im actually closer to it.

You mentioned the monochrome white plant in your dream. What exactly does it mean to you? Is it like a metaphor of the ecosystem or does it mean something else?

I’m still figuring that one out. What happened after the monochrome dream, was many questions came to mind particularly about the color ‘white’. And so I spent a great deal of time translating the visual of the ‘monochrome white garden’ with the help of books on color theory, novels, and art history…Over the years, the objects I make have sort of inform me that ‘the monochrome white’ is about the preservation of nature.

What inspired you to do your artwork Chinese Evergreen Hybrid, and what made you choose the form of a living sculpture?

The Chinese Evergreen it’s an interesting plant nevertheless, we have things in common like the specie is populates in Asia and South America. The patterns and splashes of different neon colors are captivating. Ultimately I was curious to see the decaying process of something so beautiful…A plant is subject of altering states — a living sculpture is subject of ‘suspension’. I’m interested in this intersection of suspension of life, working towards a preservation of life and nature.

Hybrids III, 2019

Hybrids III, 2019

Tell me more about your own standard of “excellence” of an artwork. Or in other words, what kind of artwork do you think is good?

A good artwork? Is not an artwork, but an experiment. These works have auras, just look at Nari Ward, Jack Whitten’s work… I look up to works that contain honesty from their craftsman, that could be translated into saying ‘works that belong to the hands’.

Could you briefly describe your daily routine as an artist? Such as when and where you make art.

Most of my work I make in my NYC studio, I sometimes go back to Venezuela and set up for few months..Keeping a constant shift of place helps me have a fresh view. I tend to work in different things throughout the day, interchanging between drawing and sculpting. I try to work mostly during the day, because nothing beats natural light. I’m working 6 to 7 days a week, no single day is the same; some days I only read… other days I have infinite conversations with my studio-mate Eileen…

Stillscapes: Grid The Uncontrolled
Stillscapes: Grid The Uncontrolled

If there is one, who is your favorite artist in the world? And why do you think he/she is important to you?

I’m in constant conversation with Eva Hesse… she taught me about materiality, attitude and breaking the rules. She was an exceptional artist, one who challenged materials properties, of resin, rubber, latex…gave it all for the work. I’m also fascinated by the fact that much of Hesse’s work has disintegrated over time, so most of the stuff you see of hers is replicated… the work has taken a life of itself, doesn’t belong to no one except time.

As an artist, which word could better define your role in society? A prophet, dissident, intellectual, citizen, or other? And why?

A provocateur. As I tend to incite new thoughts, perspectives and situations about a third nature, not in a passive state but rather in an active mode. My works are accompanied with aphorisms, and polemics… the objects and text are never at rest.

View Artwork by Dwight Portocarrero

About the gallery

Oui. Gallery is an international gallery founded in St. Louis, Missouri in 2018. Later, Oui opened a new space in Central, Hong Kong. Oui. Gallery is devoted to cooperating with emerging artists and making innovative shows.