ART: Expressionist Painter Kiki Valdes Welcomes Change of Scenery


Kiki Valdes’ style is raw and intense. At first glance, layers of color, canvas and emotive complexities vie for your attention, then gradually settle into your psyche. His artwork has been called “a marriage between abstract expressionism, cartoons and Caribbean folklore” and he is the first expressionist painter to be represented by the revered Michael Margulies Artist Agency. Valdes, securely established as a fixture of Miami’s art scene, weighed all options before deciding to leave his native Miami for New York recently. “I feel I’m starting to get more in the rhythm,” he tells Tania Fuentez Media in an exclusive interview. “I will always have Miami. I needed to do this for my development.”

As far as I’m concerned, he’s already making a good impression after meeting him at the June 30th reception for his pop-up experiment, “Studio World.” A select mix of affordable art _ Valdes’ paintings, small drawings and doodles from 2009 to date _ were on display at 80 West End Avenue with 25 percent of proceeds being donated to the organization, AID FOR AIDS International.

TFM: What’s on your mind these days? Any new obsessions finding their way into your artwork?

Kiki: I’m obsessed with adding cartoon imagery into my current work, and somehow making it work. Not sure I’m completely there yet but the challenge is what I’m asking for.


TFM: How has it been adjusting to your new digs and Gotham’s art scene after moving from Miami? Why did you decide to leave at this stage of your career?

Kiki: I feel I’m starting to get more in the rhythm. I’m starting to get more comfortable so things are so much better. The art scene in New York is big and I love the history. I started to think about some of my goals before moving up. Al Moran from OhWow came by to see a show I did and gave me some advice about moving. A lot of people were telling me to do it. I will always have Miami. I needed to do this for my development.

TFM: You recently joined the respected Margulies Agency? What led you to them and how has that been working out?

Kiki: Mike Margulies would pop his head into shows I’ve been doing. Expressing his interest in ways I rarely heard from the gallery types in Miami. I have a pretty good judge of character and his heart is in the right place. It’s still very new but we already have many projects in the works.

TFM: Earlier this year, you curated an ambitious group show, “The Outsiders,” held at the Ironside Warehouse in Miami. How did you feel putting it together and why was this important to you?

Kiki: I started putting together shows as far back as 2002. There is a true lack of galleries in general. I hated waiting for someone’s approval to show my work. I was getting so much commission work and very cool projects. But, I would never show in group exhibitions. I decided to put together shows (when I could) with artists I respect who are my friends. It’s funny, you do a show and suddenly people think you have all the answers.

People would come by dropping off slides like I’m some dealer or some shit. I would tell them, “find a space and set it up yourself.” Sadly art isn’t about just making the work anymore. You can’t just sit on your hands and think it ends there. I do feel deeply about it. Every action, there’s a reaction. Artists are so clever, if you just look at the hottest galleries, if you really examine them … you can pretty much grab the good parts and do it yourself with the right team. Don’t make a career out of it, but it’s a good way to make a declaration about the art you believe in. People see it in that setting and suddenly understand it better or not.

TFM: Are there plans for another exhibition on that level or new solo projects in the works?

Kiki: Yes, of course, I plan to do more group shows. Nothing solid yet. I have a few cool things happening later in the year, too.

TFM: Tell me about the inspiration behind “Ownzee” and what it is exactly.

Kiki: is a blogging site my brother, Humby, and I created. It’s a very cool site where you can design each blog post differently with layout you create. No Photoshop experience. But, you have to have a little bit of an eye for design for it to show its complete potential. I make all of my art invites on the site. It’s very effective. I did like six different invite blog posts for THE OUTSIDERS exhibit on the site. I didn’t print anything on paper. Promoted the invites all on social media. We had well over 550 people the night of the opening. You can really use it anyway you want, make memes, serious articles or interesting blog flyers.

TFM: Art Basel week in Miami often defies expectations and you’ve experienced it firsthand for several years. Memorable moments or escapades you’re willing to share? How have you evolved as an artist since the first time?

Kiki: Umm, a few years ago I went to the fairs with this girl as a gallery hopping date. Apparently she was on some reality TV show. I had no idea. So, we went and everyone was looking at us. All the old art dudes were staring at her tits. In her car, some big art world person, not gonna say who, kept texting her wanting to hang out. That was pretty funny. I also remember back in 2007 there was a small party at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin. I remember pretty much everyone from the Miami art scene was there. Thinking back, we were all at that party, now so many of them are doing amazing things … it was just cool to be in one place with them all.

TFM: What triggered your artistic side as a child? Discuss family influences, support from friends and other artists along the way to where you are now.

Kiki: The creative side comes from my mom’s side of the family. My mom always pushed me to do art. She was always very supportive. She comes from a fashion background. When I hear a sewing machine it makes me think of my childhood. I have really great friends that have supported me over the years. You realize, it doesn’t matter how much you network, it matters to build your network of friends. When that friendship is solid, people show the most amazing support you can imagine.


Kiki Valdes:

Kiki Valdes at Ownzee:

Michael Margulies Artist Agency:

AID for AIDS International:


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