In his recent work, Raúl Aguilar Canela examines the effects and affects of late capitalism as it toils our bodies and our minds, constantly mining them for its own benefit. Subverting popular iconographies and narrative tropes, his practice often oscillates between abstraction and figuration, and he mobilizes different techniques borrowed equally from fine arts, illustration, and commodity production. Alongside abstract studies in pencil, generated as exercises throughout the residency, Aguilar Canela focused his attention on a series of works printed on t-shirts through heat transfer, which became a site for further pictorial interventions that involved interfering directly with the image itself, adding layers of imagery, or modifying the t-shirt textile with various small rips and cuts. These works all share a common protagonist: a tall, long-haired, slightly androgynous figure who is seen alternately communing with natural elements, walking around and observing, or depressed in a darkened room.
Although Aguilar Canela has been concerned mostly with the presentation of two-dimensional works, either drawings or paintings, the residency at Est-Nord-Est has also offered him an opportunity to imagine a different presentation strategy for this new cycle of work. With the help of Richard Noury, Est-Nord-Est’s technician, Aguilar Canela explored woodworking, producing a series of spiky, slightly anthropomorphic stands that will be host to some of the t-shirt works. Although the stands are formally intriguing enough to be presented on their own, his inclination to cover them points to the tension between what is containing and what is contained. Evoking a fragile body concealed by items of clothing, present but never revealed, these sculptural stands also point out to the often-invisible labour necessary for the production of art.
Raúl Aguilar received his MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2021 and his BFA from Concordia University in 2014. His work has been subject to solo exhibitions at Centre Clark (2017), TAP Art Space (2018), and Egret Egress (2019). In 2019 his work was also selected to be part of the Bienal de Pintura Rufino Tamayo, in México City. Aguilar also participated in the 2019 Banff Artist in Residence Program.