Juan Araujo has created a site-specific installation for the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Weltzheimer/Johnson House that mines its multilayered history and highlights features of its impeccably balanced mid-century design, which the artist finds imbued with a “sense of tranquility.” Born in Venezuela and now based in Portugal, Araujo has long been interested in modernist architecture and how it circulates in reproduction, approaching a classical painting practice through a conceptual framework. Based on firsthand observation of the site (the first Wright home Araujo had ever experienced), interviews with docents, and visits to the collections of the Allen Memorial Art Museum and the Oberlin College Archives, Redwood, titled after Wright’s material of choice, comprises a cycle of paintings for the house’s interior and exterior. The “monochromes” play up the proportions of the façade, while the interior paintings reference (and in some cases directly appropriate) artworks related to the collection of Ellen Johnson, a renowned art historian and Oberlin professor who was the home’s last owner. The first project ever commissioned for the house, Redwood effects a quietly powerful homage to Wright, Johnson, and modernism itself.
Juan Araujo was born in 1971 in Caracas, Venezuela. He lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal. Since 1998, Araujo has been dedicated to artistic appropriations. He began by creating paintings which investigated the history of art by reproducing artists’ work found in books, catalogues, and online. From 2004, he has engaged with architectural topics whilst keeping the same basic approach, focusing primarily on private residences built in the mid-twentieth century which exemplify Latin American Modernism; Oscar Niemeyer´s ‘Casa das Canoas’ (1953) in Rio de Janeiro, Lina Bo Bardi´s ‘Casa de Vidro’ (1951) in Sao Paulo, and the Luis Barragán house (1948) in Mexico City.
Through the symbiotic relationship between the paintings and the buildings he has observed, Araujo informs the way we think about architecture and Modernism in general. The works can be viewed as a personal reflection, but the opportunity for universal interpretation is equally strong; it is a stunning record of the artist’s determination to observe and question Modern life.
In early 2015, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, held the first UK solo exhibition of work by Araujo. Araujo has exhibited widely throughout South America and internationally including solo presentations at Inhotim Center for Contemporary Art, Belo Horizonte, Brazil (2013) and Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain (2008). His work has also featured in numerous group exhibitions and biennials including ‘Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist’, Jewish Museum, New York, USA; ‘United States of Latin America’, Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, Michigan, USA (2015); ‘The insides are on the outside’, curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Casa de Vidrio, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2013).
His work is found in public collections including the Tate, London, UK; Museum of Modern Art of New York, New York, USA; Jumex Collection, Mexico City, Mexico; Inhotim Center for Contemporary Art, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Galería de Arte Nacional, Caracas, Venezuela; Museu de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, Caracas, Venezuela; Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas; Art Now International Collection, San Francisco; Fundación Mercantil, Caracas; Cisneros Collection, Caracas and the Berezdivin Collection, San Juan.