carlos betancourt

Carlos Betancourt - "Intimate Spirit: Collages and Other Works"

Multi-disciplinary artist Carlos Betancourt was born and raised in San Juan Puerto Rico (1966) to Cuban exile parents.  He moved to Miami when he was 15, embarking on a physical, emotional, and intellectual journey that has become a central creative force behind his work.

Betancourt’s artworks investigate personal and societal manifestations of memory in the context of beauty, identity, and communication, all influenced by his personal lived experiences both transformative and routine. Through a distinctive practice of overt artistic expression followed by careful personal re-examination, the artist recycles and reinterprets the past and delivers it in a new context.

As a young man, Betancourt was highly involved with the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL), and worked directly with legendary preservationist Barbara Capitman and Leonard Horowitz, both responsible for the Art Deco District. This experience helped shape the artist’s fascination with architecture.  One of Carlos’s first studios, called Imperfect Utopia, on Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road, was in the former offices of the legendary Art Deco architect L. Murray Dixon (designer of The Betsy’s 1440 Ocean Drive main building).  Betancourt’s Imperfect Utopia studio, with its Avant Garde exhibits and happenings, quickly became one of the main epicenters of the South Beach underground scene, spurring the regions’ renaissance, leading to the now vibrant contemporary arts environment that exists today in Miami and Miami Beach.  A collage prominently displayed at the center of this exhibit shows the exterior of the studio. Betancourt, who also was influential in the development of Wynwood as an artist community, currently keeps a studio in Little River, Miami.

INTIMATE SPIRIT: collages and other works is a rare view into the artist’s creative process, delivered in almost a dreamscape of thoughts and images through the artist personal collages. Bits and pieces of Betancourt’s world, his memories, his experiences, his past and future, unfold before the viewer, like a living fantasy. They float down gently as chapters in a story and create a uniquely personal narrative.

Exhibited publicly for the first time, these unique one-of-a-kind collages offer access to Betancourt’s free-flowing enthusiasm for life - and they are evidence of the authentic work that comes from an artist that has been truly set free to create.  Betancourt believes that virtually everything comes to life through the embedded memories that live within.

In these collages, his frequent trips to Puerto Rico, Africa, Greece, and Mexico are weaved amongst rituals, parties, Morris Lapidus architecture, Puerto Rican fritters, (bacalaitos), as well as his favorite candies, Sweetarts, its wrapping  included  in some of the collages.  All these become new symbols in Betancourt’s intimate and highly personal collages, all part of the same democracy. Memory is activated once again, ready to tell a new story in a new ceremony.  

I was captivated when looking through Betancourt’s recent book Imperfect Utopia, (published by Skira/Rizzoli). I felt as if I had a photo album of the artist’s life in my hands. I was deeply moved by the intimate collages too, and struck that they had never been exhibited before. Crafted over a 30-year period, these intimate pieces are a literal and metaphoric archive of creative thoughts and life experiences that are ultimately woven into many of his larger iconic works, which are also part of this exhibit.  It is his story - but it feels strangely like our own.

Betancourt’s artwork has been included in prominent art fairs and exhibited internationally.  His work is part of the permanent collection of several institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Palm Springs Art Museum, New Orleans Art Museum, NSU Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art and the Bass Museum of Art.

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