Angel Ricardo Ricardo Rios showcases his colorful work at PV Art Center

At a time of rapid change in U.S.-Cuba relations, a Cuban-born artist known for his vibrant, oversized paintings is showcasing his artwork through October at the Palos Verdes Art Center.

Arts supporters welcomed Angel Ricardo Ricardo Rios at a Friday reception for his “A Garden of Excesses” exhibit, which will run through Oct. 4 at the Rancho Palos Verdes center.

Rios grew up in Cuba but has lived for the last 24 years in Mexico City, where he is inspired by the diverse people and vibrant colors of everyday Mexico. Floral-themed artwork, much of it painted with his hands rather than brushes, is his specialty.

Rios, who has displayed his works throughout Central and South America, is looking forward to opening a gallery later this year in Havana.

“Now the young artists in Cuba, they are changing a lot,” Rios said through a translator last week at the PV Art Center, while taking a break from setting up his exhibit.

“It’s not the same art you could find years ago,” Rios said. “Now it’s more contemporary, very popular and more international.”

Rios remains a Cuban citizen and regularly keeps in touch with his parents and friends on the island nation. He sees positive changes in Cuba that reflect the normalizing of relations between the U.S. and his native country.

“It was something necessary,” Rios said. “It was going to happen someday. The people (of Cuba) are happy. You see people changing their minds. It is very well accepted and gives people hope, a lot of hope.”

Rios said that 50 years ago Cuba used to be more like the U.S., with many cultural similarities.

“Then over the years a lot of things changed, but the mentality was still there,” Rios said. “Now it’s a really exciting time.”

Rios, who began making art when he was in middle school, said his artwork used to be political, but not anymore, although he insists that a flower can make a political statement in the proper context.

In fact, the flower is a main image Rios creates. His sensual and erotic art looks at first glance like floral graffiti, with voluptuous shapes swelling outward. His paintings seem to have no end, as if stretching beyond the border of the canvass. Rios’ art contains shapes resembling the drawing gestures of his fingertips and hands. He refers to each painting as “like a huge fingerprint.”

“I believe that painting with my hands transmits positivity and hope in the artwork,” Rios said. “I like to touch and feel the paint that has an energy the paintbrush can’t transmit. The brush is too cold.”

Rios, who is also known for his sculptures that resemble oversized furniture, often includes similar images in his paintings. The Cuban art critic Tamara Diaz Bringas said that Rios’ “drawings, paintings and sculptures are characterized by excessive dimensions, a surplus that goes beyond any container. According to a centrifugal movement, shapes tend to aim outwards, transgressing their own borders.”

The exhibit consists of seven of Rios’ large paintings and 14 smaller ones.

“A Garden of Excesses: Angel Ricardo Ricardo Rios” will be open through Oct. 4 at the Palos Verdes Art Center, 5504 Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes. It is curated by Joe Baker, Marisa Caicholo and Evelyn Pener. For more information, visit pvartcenter.org or call 310-541-2479

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