René Treviño

Baltimore, MD | by October 25, 2011

René Tre­viño and his work are very much at home in Bal­ti­more. Since fin­ish­ing his mas­ters stud­ies at Mary­land Col­lege of Art, René is cur­rently Exhi­bi­tions Coor­di­na­tor at School 33 Art Cen­ter and is an Adjunct Pro­fes­sor at MICA and Tow­son Uni­ver­sity. As a result, I first heard about the artist through one of my col­leagues, who like René is employed by Tow­son Uni­ver­sity as an art instruc­tor. René is in the process of fix­ing up a Vic­to­rian town­house in lower Charles Vil­lage, where he has been resid­ing with his part­ner, Paul, and using a stu­dio space on the sec­ond floor for the last year and a half. This is where I met him for a stu­dio visit, on the front steps to his townhouse.

Beyond the cream-​​colored linen hang­ing in the door­way to René’s work­space, I received an imme­di­ate sense of peace­ful order. On each wall hung a work drawn more-​​or-​​less from each body of work over the past four or five years. Besides those on the walls, there was not a lot of fin­ished work to be found; the major­ity of his oeu­vre seemed to be elsewhere.

René employs an unwa­ver­ing paint­ing tech­nique that he devel­oped using acrylic paint on Mylar sur­faces. Upon my close inspec­tion of his paint­ings on the wall, the vis­ceral buildup of mate­r­ial (done all by hand) brought me into sen­sual kind of abstrac­tion, a world alter­nat­ing in turn with the work’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion and my con­cep­tual response to it. The larger the scale of the piece, the more this is evi­dent. A good exam­ple of that is the paint­ing of a horse by 19th cen­tury French sculp­tor Antoine Louis Barye, which cap­ti­vated me and prompted my com­pli­ments to the artist.

“I like for there to be a dual expe­ri­ence to the work. From far away it looks really graphic and pre­cise, but then you get up close and I think there’s a lot of loose­ness; there’s oppor­tu­nity for ges­ture, mark mak­ing and the speci­ficity of my hand on a par­tic­u­lar day to be dis­cov­ered,” René says.

René’s process involves con­stant research. Fill­ing about one third of the artist’s space was an assort­ment of ref­er­ence mate­r­ial, rang­ing from 18th & 19th c. French Toile pat­terns and Greek pot­tery to round-​​shaped Aztec bar relief carv­ings. René uses books, mag­a­zines and the inter­net to con­duct research that gets him stim­u­lated. Hav­ing once majored in the­atre and cos­tume design, he has a way for find­ing images and objects that are charged and inspire him.

“Some­times it’s the power (of an object) that com­pels me to make the image; other times I get some idea in my head and then I have to sys­tem­at­i­cally find the images that I want to appro­pri­ate or incor­po­rate into the work”. One of the artist’s inten­tions in par­tic­u­lar is to high­light and ques­tion iconic arche­types that cross over with his iden­tity as a Mex­i­can Amer­i­can and a gay man. Nev­er­the­less, he also keeps things per­sonal. The Aztec Cal­en­dar found its way into René’s imagery not just for its many aspects of power, but because he saw it sym­bol­ized almost every­where he looked, grow­ing up in Texas.

Speak­ing of his work broadly, René states “I like the idea of being able to make art, it’s the thing that fills me with the most joy. I want all the work to come from the place of the exu­ber­ance of (it’s own) making.”

I found René to be a warm and gen­tle per­son with sharp sense (and a quick, ami­able laugh). With the accom­plish­ments that keep mount­ing in his career, René’s hori­zons can’t be that slim. How­ever, he does like where he is. “I love it,” he says of his stu­dio sit­u­a­tion. He says he’s here to stay, yet maybe “not forever”.

What’s next? His first visit to Spain; a two per­son exhibit at Loy­ola Col­lege; pro­pos­als for some large scale pub­lic work, and — given his men­tion of the town­house ren­o­va­tion being near com­ple­tion –some house-​​warming enter­tain­ment as well.

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1 Comment

  • Amando Soto says:

    I have known Rene many years, I have always called his works “Awe­some Art”. His eyes see what many can not. Thanks for shar­ing Rene.

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