Just In: Carlos Almaraz’s The Clock Struck Three

July 20, 2020

One of the most influential Los Angeles artists from the 1970s and 1980s, Carlos Almaraz is widely recognized as a prolific muralist —  but it is his later work that truly exposes the conflicted inner psyche of a man determined to be remembered as a great American artist. Often overshadowed by his murals, the paintings executed in the last decade of his life reflect his return to the studio. The rich practice that Almaraz realized during the years leading up to his death in 1989 produced a series of visually arresting canvases built up with dynamic brushstrokes, textured surfaces, and saturated colors that pulsate with energy.

In an interview with Chicano Studies scholar Margarita Nieto, Almaraz speaks to his move away from murals:  “In my own present work I’m…trying to edit my work so that it doesn’t just read to a regional audience. I don’t want to be typed as a regional artist; I want to be typed as an international artist. I have to go through a lot of changes and growth myself to do that.” Accordingly, life, death and spirituality play a significant role in these later works, which act as a visual diary of the growth Almaraz identified as necessary. This period reflects his revelatory shift towards engaging his innermost dialogues and the space he deliberately created to explore spirituality, sexuality and mortality.

In The Clock Struck Three, Almaraz decodes the real and unreal through a curious amalgam of silhouettes: figures of men and women cast in abstract forms marching across a scene of chaos, in a frenzied mission to a destination unknown. His use of the color black alludes to a contested relationship with city life: “We’re talking about city scenes,” he told Nieto, “and you can’t get away from the fact that there’s a blackishness to the urban environment, whether it’s psychological or real.” Completed the year of his death, The Clock Struck Three portrays Almaraz’s mastery of dreamlike compositions to collapse representational and expressive aspects of city living and his own psyche. Dark and exuberant, it serves as a testament to Almaraz’s ongoing resistance to a singular narrative.

Gaulthier, Olivia. “A Retrospective for a Painter Who Broke Away from Murals.” Hyperallergic. November 14, 2017.

Interview with Carlos Almaraz Conducted by Margarita Nieto at the Archives of American Art Southern California Research Center in Los Angeles, CA, February 6, 13, & 20; July 31, 1986; and January 29, 1987.

Carlos Almaraz
The Clock Struck Three
Screenprint on wove paper
#59 of 120
Published by Future Perfect Multiples Inc., Los Angeles
Signed and dated in graphite lower right in image; edition lower left; retains CARECEN Art Auction label frame verso
Image/sheet: 36.625″ x 47″; Frame: 40″ x 50″; (Image/sheet: 93 x 119cm)

Estimate: $1,500–$2,000
July 30 – August 9, 2020 Modern Art & Design Timed Online Only Auction

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