|A gallery for art, and of memory|
|Written by Adrian Cabreja|
|Tuesday, December 06, 2011|
Oscar Abreu has opened a new fine art gallery space on Broadway. “I started this gallery to provide answers to the same questions I asked myself as a young man,” he says. Much of Abreu’s paintings have an autobiographical cast. This painting is one, inadvertently, he says of his sister, who perished on Flight 587. “Your greatest memories are those that impacted you with [real] emotion.”
Story by Debralee Santos and Adrian Cabreja
Photos by Adrian Cabreja
Where once there were boxes of ribbons and bows on Broadway, there is now little need for embellishment.
The former bridal shop on 4394 Broadway, a veritable mini-depot of corsages and souvenirs, has been transformed into a new gallery and exhibition space for fine art.
“In order to help the community of Washington Heights appreciate Dominican art, we need to let them know who their Dominican artists are,” explains Aram Musset, a local painter whose works now hang in the space.
Musset describes himself as a pupil of the gallery’s principal painter and owner, Oscar Abreu. Abreu, an accomplished artist from the Dominican Republic, whose works have been exhibited in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, as well as in Chicago and in New York City, has opened Abreu Fine Art, directly on Broadway.
Tacked onto the many white walls of the gallery are vivid, colorful paintings by Aram Musset, Rafael Hernández Peguero, Alejandro Asencio, Américo Jiménez and Miguel Gómez – and some of Abreu’s own.
Born in Puerto Plata, in the Dominican Republic, Abreu began an enduring love affair with the visual arts at the early age of 7.
“I discovered art as a way to liberate myself. I consider myself a visual reporter,” said Abreu.
Abreu’s talent at what he considered a passing hobby caught the attention of master Dominican artist José Nicolás Jiménez. It is at that time Abreu feels he began his artistic development in earnest.
“Even though I painted for fun [as a young man], I was developing myself into a very creative person.”
At the age of ten, Abreu moved to Spain to continue his artistic education and was taught by Juan Munoz, a well-known Spanish artist, who worked primarily in paper mache, resin and bronze, but considered himself, above all, a storyteller.
Still, despite his work with distinguished teachers and masters, Abreu found he was dissatisfied.
“Who were our most famous Dominican artists, I asked myself,” said Abreu. “I couldn’t answer this question because I didn't have any references to them. I had no knowledge about our artistic history.”
That curiosity, and lack of ready answers, fueled a personal quest for answers which soon fed his professional pursuits. He began to seek out answers from peers and teachers alike.
“I met a great number of people who answered this question, and I learned a lot.”
Abreu decided to start his own artistic magazine in his early twenties called “Artep,” which became a portal for Dominican artists to gain recognition. At the time, Abreu found himself at a creative and professional high.
But tragedy struck, and causing him to abandon his efforts with “Artep.”
On November 12th, 2001, Abreu’s sister Roseanna Ogando was one of the passengers on the ill-fated American Airlines Flight 587 heading to the Dominican Republic.
So struck with grief was Abreu that he says he stopped painting in a figurative fashion, and could only do abstract pieces until just recently.
“Her death brought such great grief,” he said. “It hit me so hard that I literally changed my way of painting.”
A decade later, Abreu Fine Art Gallery is his re-construction of the “Artep” portal, a place where artists, particularly those of Dominican descent, can exhibit and share their work with others, and to ask questions he once asked.
“I started this gallery to provide answers to the same questions I asked myself as a young man,” said the young gallery owner on a wintry afternoon this past week.
But, make no mistake, the artist within will not be denied.
Abreu still spends hours upon hours painting, his fingers and palms splattered with spots of bright paint.
Even a passing glance at his art points to an autobiographical cast. Most of his paintings, as he explains it, are memories emotionally expressed through hard strokes of color: bright reds, and rich browns and blacks.
“I’m fascinated with memory. I take interest in the questions of, ‘How do we hold some memories dear and let other ones go?’” said Abreu.
Pointing a particular frame, Abreu asked, “Do you see that painting?”
He paused. “I believe that....that painting resembles my sister. The portrait has many facial features that my sister owned.”
He was quiet for a moment, again, and then continued.
“Your greatest memories are those that impacted you with [real] emotion.”
Abreu Fine Art Gallery is located at 4394 Broadway. For more information, call 917.657.5625 or 646.530.7148, or visit abreufineart.com.