Eleven-Year-Old Prodigy Andres Valencia Evokes George Condo, Picasso, In Vibrant Paintings, Including Visceral Contemporary ‘Guernica’ Confronting Invasion Of Ukraine

A wide eye weeps onto a Ukrainian flag emblazoned with a broken heart and bullet casings, drawing our gaze to the upper left of a monumental canvas. Symbolism and Surrealism collide as distressed and distorted Cubist figures – one brandishing an enormous assault rifle that commands the center of the boldly colored painting – expose the dread and terror of war. Building on Picasso’s 1937 anti-war masterpiece, 11-year-old Andres Valencia contemplates the horrors of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bloodthirsty Invasion of Ukraine.

His mother, Elsa Valencia, said Andres stayed home from school on March 25, a month and a day after the invasion started, because he felt ill. February 24 marked the escalation of the bitter, simmering eight-year Russo-Ukrainian War, and hurled it into the global spotlight.

“It was March 25th. I know the date because when he finished sketching it he wrote the date and signed the back of the canvas, so we wouldn’t forget. Andres was in his bedroom as I was watching and listening to the news about the war in Ukraine,“ Elsa Valencia said. “He was very quiet and I walked into his room to make sure he was OK. When I walked in I saw a small 12-inch-by-9-inch canvas sketched and colored with marker. I asked him about the painting. He said it was the ‘invasion of Ukraine.’ I was absolutely moved by the painting. I sat there analyzing it. I turned to him and I asked him if he wanted a big canvas. He turned to me and asked if Putin would do ‘something’ to him. I said ‘no, he won’t do anything to you. Why do you think he would do something to you?’ I asked him. He said, ‘because when Picasso painted Guernica, Franco was not happy about it and they wanted to hurt Picasso.”

Andres Valencia walked down to the living room in his San Diego home, and in nine minutes, sketched the final painting on a large canvas, Elsa Valencia said.

“When he finished I sat there and made sure to ask him what exactly it all meant,” she said. “He went through each area and described the whole painting.”

Andres Valencia, who began painting when he was about five years old while standing on a step ladder to create large-scale works with a mix of oil stick, and oil and acrylic paint, is also a war history buff. The Commander (2022) is a nod to that fascination and a delightful play of a green uniform popping from a lavender backdrop.

“I think history is important and I watch documentaries because I want to learn. All wars are bad. I also learn about soldiers and what they did during the war. I learned about (conscientious objector) Private Doss and (real-life Rambo, Master Sergeant Raul Perez) ‘Roy’ Benavidez,” said Valencia. “I think that art tells stories and I am telling the story of the Ukrainian people and what Russia is doing to them. My painting is telling a story that can not be forgotten.”

Valencia took the art world by storm, quickly selling out a Chase Contemporary booth at Art Miami last December, where crowds gathered to watch him live paint with Caribbean-born American artist Bradley Theodore. Folks ducked under ropes and tried to clamber up a ladder to sneak a peek at the then-10-year-old virtuoso who sold paintings to celebrities such as Brooke Shields and Sofia Vergara to benefit the Perry J. Cohen Foundation (PJCF), which supports the arts, environmental, marine and wildlife education and preservation, as well as teenage entrepreneurship and boating safety education.

June is an exceptional month for Valencia’s career trajectory. He makes his global auction debut on June 21 at Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Hong Kong, when the original Ms Cube (2020) painting, used for his first limited edition print run, goes on the block. His first solo exhibition opens at Chase Contemporary’s SoHo flagship on June 23, with a reception that evening. Valencia is represented exclusively by Chase Contemporary. Committed to philanthropy, Valencia is donating a painting to be auctioned at the UNICEF Summer Gala on July 30 in Capri, Italy.

Strongly influenced by George Condo, Picasso, and Cubism, Valencia combines vivid colors and clever fragmented facial compositions to create large-scale, dramatic, vibrant figurative paintings that convey complex narratives. Katalina (2020), depicting a femine figure with an elongated neck, a left eye embraced by a blue oval, and pouty crimson lips on a yellow block chin, dares us into her story.

Prolific and prodigious, Valencia paints daily from his home studio, where he also studies art history, watches videos about painting, and sculpts, developing an interest in a diverse range of artists such as Gerhard Richter, Vincent van Gogh, Amedeo Modigliani, Francis Bacon, and Michelangelo. He’s also influenced by RETNA, Richard Hambleton, Raphael Mazzucco, Salvador Dalí, and other artists his father began collecting about eight years ago.

Valencia often begins with small sketches before embarking on larger canvases, guided by his color wheel. Painting several canvases at a time, Valencia executes many works within about four days, building from inspiration that strikes at all hours, sometimes rousing him from sleep.

Teachers at his California public school Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) program quickly recognized his exceptional, precocious talent, and his parents immediately encouraged and nurtured his self expression.

Max the Clown (2022) conveys introspection, and engages our eyes on a dance across the canvas, as if we’re juggling the blue orbs on the body and forehead and the green circular cheeks. Painterly drips bleed from the red wig and from a blue dot on the chest. The Professor (2021) stands to the left of the canvas, his multifaceted facial features and curvy suit contrasting with the thick brushstrokes on the muted background.

Sometimes he paints in silence, other times he listens to a wide array of music including The Beatles, The Sugarhill Gang, Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, The Animals, and James Brown. His subjects include exaggerated human figures and clowns, sometimes inspired by movies and cartoons, “but mainly ideas that just come to me,” Valencia confides.

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