Frankly, my guard was up for Angel Otero: New Works at CAM Raleigh. At first glance, I took Otero’s paintings for a generic imitation of Abstract Expressionism. But the New York-based artist turns out to be neither strictly abstract nor strictly expressionist. In fact, his paintings and sculptures are a shot across the bow of young, contemporary artists who nestle into emotionally vague abstraction and process-obsession while they wait for an idea to come along.
Some subtle exploration is going on in the eight sculptures and five paintings of New Works, Otero’s first museum show. The paintings—for which Otero layers oils on glass, peels off the half-dry paint skin, affixes it glass-side out to a canvas, and then pleats, scars and paints that surface—are visually homogeneous and lack figuration. The sculptures are of tangled and charred black metal, with handfuls of ceramic clay wadded on and roughly