Carlos Amorales (b. 1970)

From: The Bad Sleep Well #03

Image from From: The Bad Sleep Well #03 by Allen & Overy
Year: 2004
Material: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 200 × 150 cm

In 2006, Carlos Amorales and his wife gave a performance on the beach in Miami. She danced gracefully on the sand wearing a wolf suit and Carlos invited the spectators to dance along with her. Though certainly entertaining, is it art?

Amorales is the son of two well-known Mexican conceptual artists: Carlos Aguirre and Rowena Morales. He started calling himself Carlos A. Morales early on, so people wouldn’t confuse him with his parents. Seemingly automatically, the name later changed into the somewhat provocative Amorales, playing on the words “amoral” or “immoral”.

Amorales has a long history with Amsterdam. In 1992, he started studying at the Rietveld Academy, after which he took on a residency at the Rijksakademie (State Academy of Fine Arts) where he still regularly visits to teach. In 2020, his artistic connection with the city was confirmed with a large retrospective exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum.

The Bad Sleep Well #03 is a painting from a series of works that Amorales, who is trained as a painter, had executed by others. What mainly creates the “language” or “typography” of his work? By having it manufactured by craftsmen, Amorales starts a process of communication. The actual maker asks questions and has to find a way to relate to Amorales’ art and style. And the same goes for the buyer, who obtains a work of art that contains the DNA of Carlos Amorales. He himself speaks of “the residue of Amorales” that resides in his art. His intention is for the DNA to be eventually passed on to others. This way, the world citizen that is Amorales maintains a web consisting of invisible (time)lines between himself and the rest of the world.

Amorales’ artistic hand has become recognisable over the years, regardless of whether he works with ceramics, cuts out paper, paints or makes films. This painting shows a masked figure sometimes referred to as Monstruo. Other works in the Bad Sleep Well series contain similar elements taken from Mexican folk iconographies, such as crows, skulls and wolves, that can easily be seen as morbid from a Western point of view. Amorales has long been obsessed with masks. He also produces them himself and wears them when acting as an extra in wrestling performances, which have been immensely popular in Mexico for years. In these performances, local masked “fighters” compete like superheroes for the honour of their neighbourhood or barrio.

On the warm sandy beaches of Miami, Amorales reflects briefly on a question from the audience whether or not the wolf dance was art. His answer was that their goal had been achieved if the spectator remembers and thinks of this collective moment years later. “I like to think of the artist as proposing tools with which the others can reflect.”