Drawing from his Cuban roots, Armando Mariño’s work is influenced by periods of time living in Cuba, the Netherlands, France and New York’s Hudson Valley, and his experience of dislocation and popular culture.
The places and people embedded within the works are suffused with social and political significance. Using imagery taken from his own photographs as well as external sources, the artist’s works connect to one of the most pressing issues of our world today.
Armando Mariño’s paintings are characterised by his distinctive and highly saturated colour palette – bright pinks, oranges, greens and yellows that are offset by deep, dark shadows. Despite the traditional medium, Mariño likens the hues he works with to those that can be found in films, video games and advertising – super-saturated digital colours that fizz and pop, connecting to our contemporary way of viewing the world. Colour is essential to the work, indeed, Mariño has described painting as an idea that uses colour in order to communicate. Each of Mariño’s finished canvases begins with a number of paintings on paper. In oil and watercolour, these studies are the places where the artist’s ideas first come to life – where the composition, colour and surface details are worked out and eventually fixed down. The works on paper are a crucial part of Mariño’s research process as well as being important parts of his wider practice in their own right. The artists then builds up each of his paintings with multiple layers of oil paint. Each begin with a foundation of cadmium yellow or orange, painstakingly layered until vibrancy is achieved.
The title is derived from the ‘dark forest’ in Dante’s Inferno, which serves as a metaphor for the protagonist’s ‘spiritual, physical, psychological, moral and political’ disorientation through his ‘bewildering period of adolescence’. The figures in Mariño’s work similarly are situated within both physical and metaphorical darkness, the landscapes often alluding to forestry and nature. The ideological context in which the figures find themselves can also be seen as ‘disorientating’, and reflects the US’s current political mood.
One example of this is ‘The Mexican’ which depicts a young man draped in a glowing floral sheet flagged by cacti. Feeling that Mexican people are often undervalued by US society, except when at the forefront of controversy despite their extraordinary contribution to the workings of the country, the figure’s magnificent shroud seeks to ‘make the invisible visible’, and is Mariño’s tribute to Mexican’s living in the US. The work also references homeless or stateless figures, normally disregarded from contemporary society, but here glorified by the golden gown.
Other works play with the duality of visible/ invisible in reference to immigrants, evoking the paradox between increasing cultural hybridity and globalisation, and decisions to restrict access and close borders.
Armando Mariño was born in Cuba and now lives and works in New York. He studied art in Havana and Santiago de Cuba in the 1980s and 1990s, and at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam between 2004 and 2005. He has since exhibited his paintings all over the world including solo and group exhibitions in Paris, Ontario, Copenhagen, Madrid and Miami among other cities. Mariño has won numerous awards for his paintings and his work is held in such notable collections as that of Deutsche Bank, De Nederlandsche Bank, The Coca Cola Foundation and other significant public and private collections in Europe, Central America and the USA.