'That is the mission': Savannah artist lé dieguê is challenging the perception of Latin art

Diego Cardenas, a.k.a. lé dieguê, hails from Caracas, Venezuela, and earned an M.F.A in Painting at Savannah College of Art and Design. He is set to close his exhibit, titled “Angular Perceptions,” in the Drive Thru Art Box at Green Truck Pub, but will be talking about the piece on Thursday at 6 p.m.

As a recent SCAD graduate, lé dieguê has created his graduation thesis and is sharing it with the world.

Typically, Venezuelan art is a blend of the pre-colonial and the colonial style in the field of painting, fine arts, literature, music and dance. There was profound influence of Spanish art forms on Venezuela art, but lé dieguê has found ways to look at the world with simplicity and bring colors which at times appear in nature as if was a magical act.

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Diego Cárdenas
Diego Cárdenas

lé dieguê proposes a set of concepts that combine his interests for light and color as signifiers of culture, existence, and memory. Based on scientific methods, op art and graffiti, his work is informed by a series of investigations and palettes that present a visual and pictorial expansion of Newton’s and Goethe’s color theories.

lé portrays light to honor a constant, yet often ignored, interaction between us and the universe.

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As we sat in his balcony in historic downtown Savannah, my first question was to start at the beginning of his conceptual idea and ask about the origin and where the inspiration for his thesis “Angular Perceptions” came from, a question which he was quick to answer.

“I started with color. I am deeply enthusiastic about color. And now I am doing the series of works inspired by refraction. And I have an enormous influence from kinetic art because of where I am from, we have an excessively big heritage. It is a series of works that I have been doing for the past four to five years. SCAD has been a major help in the development and the polishing of these ideas.”

Most artists can’t help to reassess their times as creative students and what comes next as they achieve a high level of education. lé dieguê is in the process of re-examining what the future holds for himself as an artist.

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“I want to help and (it) takes me to a place where I want to teach. I am extremely excited about teaching. Now, I get the chance to do it. I will be teaching a few workshops, some acrylic painting workshops with SCAD. They are throughout this summer. So that will be like the first thing I will do, teaching. I am also getting ready for a series of shows and exhibitions. The project of SOYXSOY will be opening October 21st and truly, all wonderful and lovely plans are developing in my head.”

Diego Cárdenas
Diego Cárdenas

lé thinks that many Latin artists and their work are usually expected to look and feel a certain way. Many collectors at times want them to be in your face and obvious references that this art is of Latin descendance.

What most do not understand is that consciously or unconsciously, you inject some sort of Latinism to your work just because you are Latino.

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“I would say, because of all these people that I look up to, they are just very ingrained in our culture and psyche. It is just borrowed heritage, and it was just very natural to flow towards that type of work. And when I go home to Venezuela, I get to paint a lot. And we go to, to the most vulnerable places, and we get to work there, we get to just change the face of all these places, where kids are really seeing things that they shouldn't be seeing and if we get to just add some color and beautify things around a little bit and have some other options for people to see.

"That is the mission. It's just part of my work. It might not be as literal as many other Latino artists with my work but I think it's part of the work for sure," he said.

"I have this whole idea that we share elements with the stars in the universe, which if we see it that way, we can see ourselves as light beings. So, if I'm painting, I'm just trying to really get us ourselves closer to light; something that we interact with every day, but because of our lives, we might just give it for granted. We have other responsibilities but if I can have you know, provide some other options to see light and color and in a more natural way. I can give and offer something that will make you see things differently and closer then, I feel like my job has been done.”

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"Angular Perceptions" consists of a 21-color palette of Montana Gold spray paints, which acts as an expansion of the visible electromagnetic spectrum. With this "Chromologic Palette," lé composes a variety of rectangles to create complex, rhythmic, and dynamic grid structures. Each grid composition follows a deliberate color progression that lé has termed an “incidence.”

Each incidence serves as a pointer to an existential state, emotion or memory.

Diego Cárdenas
Diego Cárdenas

“Angular Perceptions” by lé dieguê at The Drive Thru Art Box at Green Truck Pub until October 8th. An artist talk at the box will take place on Thursday from 6-8 p.m.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Savannah GA art: Venezuelan artist Diego Cardenas, lé dieguê