Andres Chaparro: Visual Improvisation


Laurencia Ciprus (Art New England) reviews the work of Andrés Chaparro, underlining that, “His layered canvases translate Afro-Latin jazz while revealing the darkest corners of human experience.” Chaparro will be in conversation in the event “Artist Talk: Andres Chaparro, Afro-Latin Roots” on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, at 2:00pm EST, sponsored by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. [Also see our previous post Artist Talk: Andres Chaparro on Afro-Latin Roots.]

John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Jackie McLean; Lady Day and Dexter Gordon collectively leap from the walls with an expression of cool. Tonight, is all about the works of Hartford, CT, artist Andres Chaparro. The night is electric with the frisson of creative juice and jazz, friendship and form. Maurice Robertson’s brotherhood and photography provide a counterpoint to the visuals with dynamic, intuitive shots of jazz legends and underserved talents in freeze frame. The armature of the Hartford Jazz scene is present and accounted for. Singer/sanger Margaux Hayes’ buttery vocals move in tandem with bassist Nat Reeves of the Jackie McLean Institute at the Hartt School of Music. Arien Wilkerson in a stingy brim, dances across the canvas to the color of music.

Chaparro’s works are layered with social complexity and a redolence of ‘50s and ‘60s Liberada color schemes that embrace black, green and red. The work visually telegraphs the Afro-Latin textures of the jazz intrinsic to his artistic spirit. The message is encrypted in a myriad of media: from spray paint to album covers, eponymous eight tracks, scraps of sheet music and other ephemera. Faces are venerated and elongated in a tribal homage to the origins of man and the origins of jazz without pretense or intensive planning.

It is a contagious and passionate love affair with music that started in childhood with Chaparro’s father’s playlists that according to the artist, “…likely saved him from the uncertainty of the Hartford streets.” At age 13, it was “the intrinsic freedom of jazz” that made instantaneous purchase with his spirit to galvanize a young man’s impassioned eye and ear for the infinite complexity of music. Chaparro contends that his gestural brushstrokes are not meant to recount the history of jazz, but to magnify the elements. There are expansive arcs and half-stated graffiti tags peering out from beneath layers of generational meaning in bold unapologetic brush strokes.

His discovery of art was rooted in spontaneity. Young Chaparro was refused a set of congas and then abandoned thoughts of a musical instrument. Instead, he opted for a pencil as his instrument to sketch and doodle. He discovered artistic improvisation in his teens while wandering the galleries of the Wadsworth Atheneum during study breaks from the Hartford Public Library. Chaparro fell hard for the Salvador Dalí paintings in the museum’s main gallery, which germinated the seeds of creativity. This lent the young artist a broad and ample confidence to paint his dreams unchecked, and later, depict his musical muses beginning with Davis and Coltrane. The improvisational brush of the self-taught artist is a direct conduit radiating from his heart like the energy of the jazz greats to their instruments. The foundation tracks were laid down while he was a student in New York at FIT, slipping into the Village Gate and the Vanguard; the darkened rooms at Fat Tuesdays, Bradley’s; and concerts at Lincoln Center. Chaparro began his work in these intimate places, getting to know the greats like Al Foster—Miles Davis’s drummer—and bumping up against them to feel the texture of their stories before offering a dynamic visual reply.

This was the journey, yet hardly the destination. There were further conversations to have beyond the music and the art. Chaparro felt the necessity to cast a balanced light onto the canvas and depict both the joys and the tragedies of the human condition. Direct social experiences shaped and inspired him. Chaparro recalls running out to get food in the middle of a storm and encountering a destitute woman sitting on the sidewalk with a small child. The heartbreak of this encounter moved him to pose questions about the dark places within his work. His Unmarked Grave Series is a visual conversation surrounding the dark abysses of lynching and racism. Discussion of the creative process behind this powerful series still reduces him to tears. “As artists, we have a responsibility to depict difficult subjects in an authentic fashion.” The work resonates and wraps around the soul with the pathos and painful history of the African diaspora and its aftermath.

Chaparro sees both art and jazz as “a mechanism to bridge and educate. Jazz is empowering. It inspires and creates higher thought. There are lessons to be learned by creating within a space outside the lines. I have to share this idea.” This sharing extends to his passion for connecting with and mentoring minors. He recalls hosting a workshop for at-risk youth back in the ‘90s and ushering in Jackie McLean—Hartford’s musical cornerstone. The kids were mesmerized by the experience of connecting to the icon. The artist’s commitment to jazz art propelled him to other arenas to inspire and educate. This year he will once again serve as Artist in Residence for the Montclair (NJ) Jazz Festival, founded by Grammy Award-winning bassist Christian McBride and his wife, vocalist Melissa Walker. Walker is the inspired vision behind “Jazz House Kids”—the non-profit music education component that serves city school children with instruction and provides performance opportunities at the festival each summer. Opting for fine art versus graphics, the board of directors selected Chaparro’s energetic and layered depictions of jazz greats to serve as the visual branding for the annual event. [. . .]

For full review, see

[Above: Chaparro’s “Soul Eyes for the Unmarked Graves,” 2012.]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s