Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo: Creepy Pop Art


Originally published on Visionary Artistry Mag with photos here: http://www.visionaryartistrymag.com/2016/05/alvaro-tapia-hidalgo-creepy-pop-art/

Andy Warhol is overrated.

There, I said it. I’ll keep my visuals of soup cans limited to the grocery store aisles. The Marilyn Monroe print isn’t particularly stunning. As far as pop art goes, give me the dark lined coolness of Roy Lichtenstein; give me the intricate detail, shading and color of Wayne Thiebaud. Now, we’ve got a new name to add to the list of phenomenal artists: Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo, whose artwork is as fun to look at as his name is to say.

As far as education goes, Hidalgo studied different kinds of art in Chile: graphic design at Universidad de Valparaiso and cinema at Escuela de Cine de Chile. His work as an illustrator is self-taught, but with so much education in art, some of it has to blend together.

Hidalgo uses a mix of computers, paintbrushes, paper and scanners to create his pieces. His Facebook page is full of posts of sketches and drawings outlined in black ink, and colored with bright markers. At first glance, these drawings look like a child has haphazardly colored in the lines. However, each blue stroke of the marker, colors in the skin, black swipes under the eyes represent exhaustion, baggy depth and carefully placed yellow marks on the cheeks emphasize high cheekbones of his subjects.

A famous portrait of writer Edgar Allan Poe is re-created by Hidalgo, but creepy and off-putting, which is a representation of Poe’s writings. It’s the stoic image of Poe staring straight forward with a fashionable scarf wrapped around his neck. Hidalgo makes his eyes perfectly round, there is red where the white colors should be and yellow around the pupils. His nose is pink, making it a focal point of the piece. Poe has Hidalgo’s signature sallow blue skin, but the scarf he’s wearing is bright magenta. Though this is a famous image of the poet, I immediately mistook the scarf in Hidalgo’s interpretation for dripping blood, as if someone had come along and slit his throat. Hidalgo’s creation, to me, matches Poe’s works or what I imagine his personality would be like – a little creepy, a little bloody, but still a mystery. In this case, the artist’s interpretation does more justice to the subject than the original portrait – which tells me that Hidalgo has quite the gift.

For a look into the creep factor of his pieces, this is exactly what Hidalgo uses for inspiration. “As for the visual part, I’m interested in finding beauty in the grotesque and disturbing and sinister in the ordinary,” the artist said with Australian online creative mag No Cure Magazine. You’ll easily recognize this in his images of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, the Bride of Frankenstein and the chick from “The Exorcist” (who probably has a name, but I’m too much of a wimp to actually sit through and watch what I’m told is one of the most terrifying horror movies to date).

This fascination with the disturbing is even evident in his “Angry People” series. His subjects are blue and magenta in the face, eyes narrowed with snarls across gritted teeth. Once again, the pink noses almost have a 3D effect, drawing in your attention right into the center of their angered faces.

Something refreshing about the artist is that he’s aware of his gift. It seems like artists these days try to downplay the fact that they – gasp – like their own art; they take a masochistic pleasure in criticism. Often, this comes across as feigned humility. Hidalgo isn’t afraid to say that he likes his work and that other creators do, too. “What I like the most, no doubt, is the process. The problem-solving process to reach a final result. I think that perhaps other illustrators see that I have found a personal style in terms of form and theme,” the artist explained to InPrint Magazine, and online magazine showcasing contemporary visual artists.

Hidalgo’s works have been all over the world. He’s been featured online by publications in Germany, Argentina and Italy. Here in the states, you can find some of his illustrations in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal and Wired.

Though Hidalgo’s portraits look pretty standardly human, his application of color adds an element of surprise and ups the scare factor. With contrasting, bright eyes and noses that look like they’re about to pop through the barrier of the page, these images are a tad unsettling, but nevertheless intriguing.

-Geneva Toddy

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