Step inside the Riney Fine Arts Gallery at Friends University and you’ll be visually transported into the multi-hued chasms of the human mind. In an exhibit in which science and art collide, artist Jose Alvarado’s creative intuition is a blend of two distinct worlds. Though he has a background in engineering, art has become his focus. In a series of 11 paintings that span his artistic journey to date, he explores the intersection of the two disciplines.
“It’s a depiction of this idea of a combination of two polar opposites and how they coexist,” Alvarado said. “There’s tension, yet unity within that same moment. I slowly try to understand my placement in art and what I want to explore. I learned so much through engineering and I enjoy patterns. I enjoy all these schematic things, how things work. I want to incorporate that into my art.”
Alvarado, 24, is a native of Santa Monica, Calif., but spent most of his time growing up in Kansas. Originally, he was a student of engineering at Wichita State University, focused on aerospace technologies. He worked at the Walter H. Beech Wind Tunnel for a while, gaining experience in developmental testing in aeronautics. Though he has had a fascination with science since a young age, he felt pulled toward art after two years in his engineering program. He started spending time in the art department, taking intro classes. This eventually led to him changing his major to fine arts, and he now holds a BFA in painting.
“I got to a point where I felt a limitation with engineering. These limitations caused a shift in my perspective,” he said. “I wanted to branch my artistic abilities outside the confines of math and physics. I was really interested in design and this exploration of the unreal and yet how everything has to be functional. That presented a realization that art contains no boundaries. As much as I enjoyed engineering, my passion of art took precedence.”
The series on display at the Riney Gallery is the artistic manifestation of a dually focused mind. It shows his progression from precision to a more abstract approach toward art. His earlier pieces are more structured and conceptual in form and mimic the inside of the human brain in some ways. An untitled work in his “Biochemical Series 1” features an open-orb pouring a source of light onto a brain-like edifice. Another is a lighted opening from the perspective of the bottom of a textured tunnel.
His later pieces are whirling abstractions of color, where lines intersect creating a pulsation of red, yellow, and orange orbs. His most recent works, which include a series entitled “Biomechanical Metamorphosis,” are bright in color and prism-like in structure. “Fractured Reality” is a swirl of colors and broken lines, emitting a space-like intersection between splattered randomness and exactness. All of his canvases are colored with oil paint.
Also included in the show are a series of large-scale drawings that bridge architectural-like designs with more artful shapes and colors. It’s in these works that Alvarado’s engineering background is perhaps most fully on display.
“I go on these visual studies where I am really interested in architecture,” he said. “Anything I see in patterns, shapes, texture … if I find something intriguing, I mentally take a note and I project that back in. I find it fascinating, the patterns and how they create an image.”
Though he has had solo exhibitions before, this is his first since 2010. It’s also the first time a collection from each of his series has been show together. He said that standing in the room and seeing it all is like watching how his mind has evolved. The progression of the mind is a concept that he says has found relevance with those who have seen the show.
“My hopes are that the paintings don’t seem static,” Alvarado said. “I want the viewer to get engulfed into a psychological separation into this abstract or surreal landscape. It’s an exposure of color line and it’s more of a journey into this constant flux. I want the viewer’s imagination to complete that journey. I lay down the foundation or the framework, but the viewer comes in to finish it.”