Friday, July 26, 2013

Richard Tretault's Engagement with Youth and Passages

Richard Tretault is an artist living in Vancouver, Canada. His career has been spent looking at his surroundings and getting a feel for life on the street.  His fascination with the urban landscape is long-standing, so much so that he often has worked to improve the quality of arts found in an urban setting by working on murals and large-scale projects.  His interest in this area led him to coordinate with the Canadian-based LaRaza, bringing arts to public spaces in Canada, Argentina and Mexico.  

Tretault’s prints have the same feel as his other works, meaning they have an expansiveness, both in actual scale and  the allegorical images they project. The bold brushwork and color of his images show us a person working uninhibited in the medium. He brings forth a liveliness and an underlying pulse of the people living in his environments.

The doorways, or passageways, some broken and falling apart let us equally enter and exit the image. The faces of youth, contrasted against the broken down environment show that youth will always carry on into the future. The strength of his lines, collaged sections and angles harken to the Expressionists, but where he differs from them he allows vibrant and passionate color work push and pull the compositions like a Hans Hoffmann painting.

Tretault's series about Cuba and its culture speak about it enduring struggle to survive in the face of overwhelming societal and governmental sanctions. The strata of their lives in Cuba is fraught with obstacles, yet it is a culture full of music and creativity.Doors are closed tot he outside public, and crows or vultures seems to await those that venture outside its confines, but the birds have nothing to eat, and the doors are alive with within. Nothing will keep them from being the creative, inventive people they are.  
Likewise, Tretault's portraits of Cuban youth amidst broken or cubistically-collaged objects in their environment, like a bicycle or an angel floating overhead(whether figurative or allegorical) it is there watching over them protecting them from evil. They will defiantly stand their ground and fix that broken bicycle or 1950s car as many times as it takes because it's all they have. They will survive because they have to.
This final portrait collages the elements of the Caribbean, the waves, the breeze blowing through the palm trees, and the face of this young man, ever-watching for his opportunity to break free of  the confines of his country. I ascribe my thoughts upon these pieces, but I sense and feel Tretault's warm breezes blowing over the land and the youth's skin. On the surface the place isn't so bad, but the translucency of Tretault's printings underscore hidden feelings and suppressed ambitions. They are strong, powerful compositions that engage us through color and linear details, but we are more fascinated by what is not seen and what is unknown about a culture that as been virtually isolated for 50 years.It's as though Tretault is saying, 'open the gates and let us in', for there is much to discover and much to learn about the arts and people of this little island nation. I hope someone listens to Tretault's images and lets us do just that.

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