Ricardo Mulero could be called an expert at putting emotions onto the world stage. A decade ago, he was one of the lead designers of the exhibitions in the 9/11 Memorial Museum. He and his team created the cavernous, almost mythic spaces that honored both the lives lost and the monumental grief of the city that had lost them.
Now, the NYC-based, Puerto Rican-born architect-turned-artist is turning all of that skill inwards. The recent death of his mother is the driving emotion behind his new exhibit in Soho. Her death turned him to painting, his hobby from his youth.
“I feel a very private and personal part of me will be on display,” said Mulero of his upcoming solo exhibit. It will feature 29 oil paintings.
Mulero’s oils are a melancholy lot, featuring semi-abstract figures expressed in unsettling colors and poses, usually alone. He uses the space of his canvas as if it were confinement. His favorite, “Man-In-The-Box,” is of a sketchy, indistinct figure folded tightly into the shape of the frame.
“Some will say it’s creepy, and others will comment on how peaceful he seems or how beautiful it is,” he says of viewers’ reactions to that painting.
Most of the figures of his paintings are male. Mulero, who is gay, grew up through the AIDS crisis. He paints male bodies as being vulnerable, as well as strong and self-contained. His semi-abstract style speaks worlds of emotion out of each figure.