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Endangered Species Paintings Document Disappearing Ideologies

Juan Travieso's paintings look like George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' meets 'Tron.'

Endangered Bird #164, 2016 (acrylic and ink on Yupo, 10"x10")

Juan Travieso's artwork looks like the characters of George Orwell's Animal Farm somehow infiltrated Tron. His style is a pastiche of abstract expressionism and low-brow pop surrealism, with vivid, bold fractals of nature redefining the contemporary practice of portraiture. By stripping away images to create new ones, the artist's unique effect mimics 3D, but without the need for fancy glasses.

Themes in Travieso's work include temporality and decomposition, calling attention to the fast-paced, disposable attitude of digital image production. Glitches, bit rot, and other forms of technological decay poke through the ultimate realism of Travieso's traditional-style portraits, and it all comes from a childhood in Cuba. Intertwined with Travieso's digital renderings are subtle nods to communist propaganda posters as well as classic children's animation, evoking the importance of both disappearing and emerging worldviews affecting, and affected by, the current political climate.

Blood Ivory, 2015 (acrylic and oil on canvas, 36"x36")

A graduate of New World School of the Arts in Miami and Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Travieso also received an MFA from the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston. Now based in Miami and New York, he continues to draw from his experience as a youth in Cuba, using endangered animals as a metaphor for the changing ideologies coming out of the Cuban Revolution. "I started to draw at an early age," Travieso says. "Growing up in communist Cuba, I did not have much access to cartoons. I started to draw them from my imagination and TV. That desire to have images of cartoons available to play with and look at started my art career."

Travieso's primary medium is painting, and he regularly uses acrylic, oil, gouache, and ink, with the help of tape to create straight lines. He's also been known to experiment with other painting techniques such as splattering and using a toothbrush in order to achieve various effects and different textures. "My art is an appropriation of many different styles and motifs, including digital components that make the work a hybrid style," he explains.

The Monument, 2015 (acrylic on panel, 36"x36")

Travieso is especially partial to street art, claiming that it helps him connect with people and allows him to paint at larger scales he can't achieve at the studio. "It's an amplification of my work in every way," he says. "It's important because it makes what the artist wants to say accessible to people in ways that far surpass what galleries could do [...] Street art is very unique because it does not rely on an institution, for the most part, to infiltrate the masses. It's done usually very fast, and it has unthinkable amounts of reach. People can see something change so rapidly; by changing the skins of these buildings with paint, their world changes. I think it's fascinating."

His methodology is straightforward, beginning with Travieso reading all he can on a subject. Once he understands what it is exactly that he wants to convey with his piece, Travieso begins culling images from a range of sources. He then composes a new image out of the existing ones in Photoshop, and takes that image to make a drawing. Once satisfied with the drawing, he paints it, edits it, and tweaks colors as necessary.

Expiring #5, 2016 (acrylic on wood, 24"x30")

As an artist, Travieso believes that one of the most important things humans can do is live together in harmony despite different ideologies, and to learn how to communicate using the inherent connection linking us all. He feels we must always strive for new ways to improve our understanding of each other, or risk losing everything around us. "The intention behind my work is to bring awareness of how much is being lost," he says. "We are nature [...] Humans have been conditioned to believe that it’s us against nature, and that we need to fight it. But we are fighting against ourselves. We’re destroying our earth, and it will eventually destroy us if we don’t take care of it."

Expiring #4, 2016 (acrylic on panel, 24"x 30")

Expiring #3, 2016 (acrylic on wood panel, 24"x30")

Expiring #2, 2015 (acrylic on panel, 24"x30")

Follow Juan Travieso on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and visit his website here.

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