Robert Vargas is a contemporary artist known for his mixed-media portraits, murals and live events. Born and raised in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, Vargas is a leading creative force in the revitalization of Downtown LA’s art scene. His paintings and drawings infuse classic genres of portraiture and nudes with an avant-garde explosivity that not only captures the visage and likeness of his subjects but seems to excavate the intimate aspects of their character. Vargas selects his subjects intuitively at his highly attended live-painting sessions, creating powerful and sublime representations of the human connection through his portraiture. His visual vocabulary pulls from life experience, a viscerally sensual approach to line and texture, and an almost mannerist choreography of abstraction and representation that combine to unforgettable effect in his portraits.
One thing that many of Vargas’ biggest followers and fans may not know is that this visual vocabulary is heavily influenced not only by classical art forms and techniques but ancient art itself. When discussing his expansive mural works Vargas casually notes that his work is only a small fragment of the continuous lineage of collective creativity and artistic impulse passed down from the earliest generations of cave painters tens of thousands of years ago. And in fact, Vargas is a noted collector of ancient art himself, owning and drawing inspiration from a rather comprehensive assemblage of artifacts from all over the world. Some of his favorites include shaft tomb pieces from Jalisco and Colima, monumental Buddhas from Myanmar, and drama filled pottery from ancient Greece. Each and every item infusing in him eternal inspiration and the spirit of sacred expression shared by artists, visionaries, and adepts from across time and space.
In the first exhibition of its kind, the Barakat Gallery Los Angeles is proud to present the captivating contemporary portrait work of Vargas side by side with some of its most ancient predecessors. Mesmerizing mixed media works on paper and canvas will be displayed amongst evocative and dynamic African wooden masks, dignfied Roman marble busts, and powerful Pre-Columbian stone effigy figures. Vargas’ immediate and visceral captures of the human condition and personal narrative will be set against carvings in stone that encapsulate layers of sophistication and seem to defy time itself. His bold, masterful strokes and fluid virtuoso technique bring essence to life in a matter of minutes, while these studies in ancient manner and method often took thousands of hours to complete. Yet as he alluded to above, they are all part of the same undying artistic tradition. One that aims to channel and express the deepest of humanity’s yearnings and the heights of its pursuits in the most tenuous of forms… one that connects cultures, individuals, and periods over limitless time and space with the subtle stroke of a brush or the precise mark of a chisel. Whether a two thousand year old iconic portrait bust of an exalted dignitary from a long lost empire or a deeply intimate and expressive portrait painting of a passerby on the modern streets of any town USA these deeply personal portrayals speak directly to the passion, presence, and humanity in each and every one of us.