Carlos Gamez de Francisco Biography
Carlos Gamez de Francisco was born in post-revolutionary Cuba in 1987, to a Cuban-Spanish mother and a Cuban-American father. He grew up in Cuba and was educated in an academic style heavily influenced by the Russian Academy. At age five, he determined, with absolute certainty, that he would be an artist. By the time he was fifteen, Gamez de Francisco was diligently painting eight hours a day, every day. Today, he often spends 15 hours a day painting and feels “very blessed to do what I love.”
Gamez de Francisco arrived in the United States with $650 at the age of 21 speaking no English. He spent $600 on art supplies and $50 on a pair of Cortez running shoes – “just like the ones Forrest Gump wore to run across the United States.” He committed himself to learn 100 English words every day, studying diligently, working and painting at night. For the first five months he lived in America without sleep. His exceptional talent, hard work and perseverance led him to earn artistic commissions and recognition.
Gamez de Francisco paints and photographs very passionately, making statements filled with symbolism. He frequently includes insects in his artwork. He says: Flying insects represent FREEDOM; Falling insects represent CHAOS; When they are lying down, they represent BALANCE.
His classical training was based on portraits and history, paintings that royalty and the very wealthy upper class would commission. Garments were exquisite, surroundings emanating wealth. But Carlos felt that “Everybody has the right to be in the portrait” and he embarked on a series where everyday people were featured with ‘found’ objects in their home, like lace doilies, curtains, plastic bags and kitchen towels, draped and adorned in such a way they appeared ‘royal’.
His paintings of furniture tend to be over-decorated, a nod perhaps, to that of the wealthy, but maybe more as a result of a childhood memory. In Cuba, his mother saved for two years to purchase a new sofa. It was such a sign of achievement for her that it was kept in plastic and no one was allowed to sit on it. He learned to admire it from a distance, as if he were in a museum.
After arriving in the United States, he noticed the lavish attention we devote to our pets, spoiling them and allowing them to lounge on the sofa. This led to a new series: “Keep Your Pets Off Furniture”. This series not only had dogs laying on the sofa, but had horses jumping on the elaborately decorated couch. Today, Gamez de Francisco’s Afghan Hound has the run of the house, lounging wherever he likes.
Living in Kentucky, horses are a favorite theme for Gamez de Francisco. In surrealist fashion, he combines horses with the human form, centaur-like, but in reverse – the horse’s head with a human body. Or, maybe the head of a dear, a fox, a giraffe . . . and don’t be surprised if the body is that of a beautiful woman attired in silk and finery.
Gamez de Francisco’s work is exquisitely detailed, beautifully executed and primarily – thought-provoking.
Carlos Gamez de Francisco – Artist Statement:
“This frame of reference (Russian Academy) is evident in all of my work. To deny my experiences, perceptions and the influence of history would be ignoring my own existence. These influences are the lens through which I create and the motivation that propels me.
As a Cuban, history has influenced me in a variety of ways. On the one hand, it allows me to rethink the way storytelling is part of our memories. On the other, it allows me to question the accuracy of history and its telling. This conflict absorbed me during my early years and continues to engage me as I complete my artistic education. Currently, this near-obsession with the past translates into figures, scenarios, and most importantly, the recreation of my own stories.
In Cuba, I was exposed to the influence of the figurative arts by the presence of the Russian Academy. This presence, as well as the censorship of contemporary art and the limited access to information, was the accepted dogma. Consequently, I understood that decontextualizing epochs and artistic symbols was the tool I could use to establish a connection between the present and the past. The resulting work provides an escape from reality and creates an illusory world. I am more interested in altering history than depicting it accurately.
Taking reference from the core values of The Enlightenment, I believe in the use of reason as it alludes to the themes of power and hierarchy. This notion is reinforced by the recurrent use of portraiture and/or the use of round shapes to signify balance and purity. Now I focus on finding a provocative way to approach the established norms of perfection and beauty. I use these techniques and ideas to support the visual discourse but not as the most outstanding element of my work. This concept of revisiting and manipulating history explores the elements of repetition, excessive decoration and obscene abundance.
My images refer to an apparent sense of happiness and well being which in turn, insinuates a nonexistent time. Thus, themes and specific figures are examples of distorted reality illustrating my perceptions about life. I focus on modifying historical periods, fashion, images and contexts using insects, whether realistically represented or not, as imaginary elements recreating new contexts. Mainly, I recreate my experiences and memories by superimposing and manipulating historical figures and events.
Finally, understanding beauty in its various forms is the motivation for experimenting with non-conventional materials. My general approach is to demystify classical beauty and present it as a natural process and in its natural form.”
Highly awarded and exhibited, some of Carlos’ numerous awards include: Honorable Mention, International Color Awards, Beverly Hills, CA (2020), Honorable Mention, (2019) Tokio International Photo Awards, Tokio, Japan, “Dreammakers” Artist in Residence at the Muhammad Museum, the Distinguished Scholarship from the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum Guild Purchase Award from Evansville Museum. I have had solo shows at 21c Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and Bentonville, Arkansas, Kenise Barnes Fine Art in Larchmont, New York, Tinney Contemporary Gallery in Nashville, Tennessee, Hardcore Art Contemporary Space in Miami, Florida, The Muhammad Ali Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Colonial Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, Cuba. My work has been exhibited at Scope-Art Basel, Miami (2012), Art Palm Beach (2014), Art Southampton, New York (2015), and Context Art Miami (2016).
2016 School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Distinguished Scholarship.
2006 Jose Marti Fine Arts School. Holguin, Cuba
2004 Raul Gomez Garcia Fine Arts School. Holguin, Cuba
Independent study with Cuban artists Miguel Angel Salvo, Cosme Proenza, and Harry Ruiz.
SOLO EXHIBITIONS (SELECTED)
2020 Keeneland Couture, New Editions Gallery, Lexington, KY
Personality Plus, Kore Gallery, Louisville, KY
2019 New Work, New Editions Gallery, Lexington, KY
New Work, Weinberger Fine Art, Kansas City, MO
“Modern Nobility”, Miller Gallery, Cincinnati, OH
“Specimen Lost in a Tropical Island”, New Editions Gallery, Lexington, KY
2018 “An Uncommon Vision: Equines, Archetypes, and Allegories”, New Editions Gallery, Lexington, KY
“The Power of the Powerless”. Moremen Moloney Contemporary, Louisville, KY
2017 New Work. Kenise Barnes Fine Art, Larchmont, NY
“FAQ’s 1789-1987”. Moremen Moloney Contemporary, Louisville, KY
2015 “Troubling Beauty: Myth and Metaphor in Contemporary Costume Drama”. 21c Museum, Bentonville, AR
2014 “Troubling Beauty: Myth and Metaphor in Contemporary Costume Drama”. 21c Museum, Louisville, KY
“Size Matters”. The Green Building Gallery, Louisville, KY
“Cactus Petals, Fluctuating Asymmetry, and Crimes of Passion”. Tinney Contemporary, Nashville, TN
2013 “Pétalos de Cactus, Fluctuaciones Asimétricas, y Crimen Pasional”. Visual Art Association, Holguín, Cuba
2012 “Radical Genealogy: The Decline of Dauphins, Courtesans, and Hounds”. Hardcore Art Contemporary Space, Miami, FL
“Trio”. Miller Gallery, Cincinnati, OH
“Black Portraits of Pomegranate Eaters”. Swanson Contemporary, Louisville, K
2011 “Cuban Now” 21C Museum, Louisville, KY
2010 “The Last Words of Louis XVI” Muhammad Ali Museum, Louisville, KY
2009 “Fungus for Parry-Rombeg”. Les Arts Gallery, Balearic Islands. Spain
2008 “The Last Little Vincent and Jean Puy”. Colonial Museum of Fine Arts, Havana, Cuba
2006 “The Hole of the Mirror”. Ibero-American House, Holguín, Cuba
GROUP EXHIBITIONS (SELECTED)
2019 Dress Up, Speak Up: Regalia and Resistance, 21c Museum, Cincinnati, OH
Mix it Up! New Editions Gallery, Lexington, KY
“Endless Summer”, Miller Gallery, Cincinnati, OH
2018 46 International Art Exhibition, Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, Brownsville, TX
PHOTO’ 18. Kenise Barnes Fine Art, Larchmont, NY
“Endless Summer”, Miller Gallery, Cincinnati, OH
“Keep your Clothes ON”, New Editions Gallery, Lexington, KY
30th Anual Decatur Arts Festival, Decatur Arts Alliance, Decatur, GA
2018 Art at the Center Juried Exhibition, Overland Park, KS
“Merton Among Us”, 849 Gallery, KyCAD, Louisville, KY
2017 45th Mid-States Craft Exhibition, Evansville Museum, Evansville, IN
“Mistrz i morze”, ArtGalle Galeria, Szczecin, Poland
2016 Context Art Miami, Ai Bo Gallery, Miami, FL.
Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center, Miami, FL
“Cuban Fried Chicken”, MAC Gallery, Fort Lauderdale, FL
“Cuban Art: Influence and Articulation”. Moremen Moloney Contemporary, Louisville, KY
“Navigate”, 1619 Flux Art + Activism, Louisville, KY
2015 New Blood Festival, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Art Southhampton, Glenn Aber Contemporary, NY
2014 “Latin Views 2014”. Alexey Von Schlippe Gallery, Groton, Connecticut
“Miami New Media Festival 2014”. The Chill Concept. Miami, FL
Art Hamptons, NY, Glenn Aber Contemporary
Art Palm Beach, FL, Glenn Aber Contemporary
2013 “NSHMBA Louisville Fundraising & Awards Gala”. NSHMBA, Louisville, KY
“Dis-semblance: Projecting and Perceiving Identity”. 21c Museum, Cincinnati, OH
“Acuarelas III”. Lombillo Palace, Havana, Cuba
2012 Scope -Art Basel, Miami, Hardcore Art Contemporary Space.
“Latin Views”. Alexey Von Schlippe Gallery, Groton, Connecticut
2011 “Mada New Media Festival’11”. Hardcore Art Contemporary Space, Miami, FL “Contemporary Realism”. Miller Gallery, Cincinnati, OH
“Acuerelas II”. Lombillo Palace, Havana, Cuba
2010 “Fronteras Desdibujadas” Periquera Colonial Museum, Holguin, Cuba
“EKLEKTICITY.” George Rodez Gallery, Miami, FL
2009 “Drove my wife crazy”. Pyro Gallery, Louisville, KY
2008 “Cuban Artists”. Rome, Italy
”Dachshund, a Legend”. Humboldt professorship, University of Havana. Havana, Cuba
2020 Fine Art Photographer of the Year, 2020 Moscow International Photo Awards, Moscow, Russia
Gold Award, 2020 Moscow International Photo Awards, Moscow, Russia
Gold Award, 2020 Moscow International Photo Awards, Moscow, Russia
Honorable Mention, International Color Awards, Beverly Hills, CA
2019 Honorable Mention, 2019 Tokio International Photo Awards, Tokio, Japan
Bronze Award, 2019 Moscow International Photo Awards, Moscow, Russia
2018 Honorable Mention, 30th Anual Decatur Arts Festival, Decatur, GA
2017 Museum Guild Purchase Award, Evansville Museum, Evansville, IN
Museum Contemporaries Purchase Award, Evansville Museum, Evansville,
Members’ Purchase Award, Evansville Museum, Evansville, IN
Jeanne Bowman Ellenstein Purchase Award, Evansville Museum, Evansville, IN
2016 Ox Bow Merit Scholarship, Ox-Bow School of Art, Saugatuck, MI
Capital Professional Development Program, 21c Museum, Louisville, KY
2015 SAIC Distinguished Scholarship, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
SAIC Grants, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Kurtich Travel Scholarship, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
2012 Key to the City of Louisville by Mayor Greg Fischer, Louisville, KY
2011 Norman Kohlepp Merit Awards. Louisville Visual Art Association, Louisville, KY
2010 Capital Professional Development Program, 21c Museum, Louisville.
2009 “Dreammakers” Artist in Residence. Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville, KY
2008 City Award. Visual Art Association, Holguín, Cuba
2007 Best Performance. XXI Provincial Visual Art Exhibition, Holguín, Cuba
Best Short Film in the Seventh National Festival of Audiovisual “By First Time”.Cuba
2006 Exhibit of Illustrated Poetry. Holguin Gallery, Holguin, Cuba
Evansville Museum, Evansville, IN
21C Museum, Louisville, KY
Fashion Resource Center, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Cuba Ocho Museum & Performing Art Center, Miami, FL
Polanco’s Collection, Havana, Cuba
Louisville’s Metro Hall, Louisville, KY
Gamez de Francisco´s works are also in private collections in the United States, Spain, Luxembourg, Ecuador, Italy, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Mexico.
2019 Mural commissioned by Origin Lexington Hotel, Lexington, KY
2017 Mural commissioned by Google and LVA, Louisville, KY
2012 La Boca del Lobo International Film Festival, Madrid, Spain
2010 “3rd Annual KY Short Film & Video Showcase”. 21C Museum, Louisville, KY
2007 VII National Festival of Audiovisual “By First Time”, Holguin, Cuba