“I identify with the idea of taking a leap of faith into the unknown,” says Mateo Romero. “Artists such as Richard Diebenkorn and Pablo Picasso have often charted new territory in the course of their careers, moving, for example, from figurative to abstraction. I’ve always painted landscapes as part of my subject matter, but recently it has become a dominant direction and I’m very excited about it.”
Romero often hikes in the canyons and along the rivers lying south of Abiquiu. He sketches, photographs, and makes notes on evocative scenes. In his studio he translates these experiences into portrayals of a landscape rich in light-reflecting ochres, terra cottas, shadowy greens, and shimmering waterways reflecting the vast blue New Mexico skies. “It’s been wonderful and given me a fresh perspective on this region.”
The evolution of an artist’s work can be mysterious, with the forces of change rising slowly to the surface. Romero has long been known for his well-recognized mixed-media art with its complex references to his native ancestry and highly crafted design components. While his earlier works took a deep existential look into history, as he pivots in this dramatic new direction we share his emotional connection with a landscape traveled by his people for thousands of years. Using explosive impasto palette-knife strokes, each painting vibrates with energy. Each is painted alla prima with not even a whisper of hesitation—they are filled with power and authority.
With these works, Romero takes a bold step into the world of American landscape painting, and he does it brilliantly. He takes his intuitive narrative gifts and carries them forward into a visual language of interpretive realism. His landscape series will be exhibited during Blue Rain Gallery’s Annual Celebration of Contemporary Native American Art, August 19 – 23, 2015.