Famed skate spot, JKwon Plaza, a grimy homeless encampment inhabiting an underpass of an LA freeway, the comfortable confines of a family gathering at grandma’s house, and portraits of high school students all take form in Michael Alvarez’s new body of work, We’re Out Here. From his time spent working in alternative education, to years of cruising around the city atop his skateboard and writing graffiti, Alvarez has become an observer of his immediate surroundings, creating a compound narrative of life as lived in the complex sprawl of his native Los Angeles.
Alvarez’s subject matter has always developed out of his intimate relationship with his environment and is equally concentrated on portraiture as it is on the details within the environment that provide a glimmer of the whole story. Family portraits, photos of his incarcerated students, and snapshots of frequented places all inspire his subject matter. Alvarez paints his way into understanding a memory and documents a specific moment from images that are collaged or cleverly composited into painted scenes. Some moments are more hyperactive than others, which he demonstrates with a conscious blurring technique that suggests movement through time and space in a static image. While his imagery is realistic, it’s also invested with humor and realism that supersedes mere depiction.
Michael Alvarez’s We’re Out Here opens Thursday, February 15th from 6-8pm at Marlborough Contemporary in New York.