Francisco Alvarado: Luminous Work in Running With the Bulls

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Above, artist Francisco Alvarado. Below – another of his vibrant bulls. Note the abstract, almost collage-like quality, the depth, the dots and lines.

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Originally from Quito, Ecuador, Francisco Alvarado has found a physical home in the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles, and a spiritual home in his art.

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Raised with an explorer’s eye and a passion for color and landscape, Alvarado calls himself “Lucky to travel with my father at a very early age. I used to explore the Amazon jungle…my father was also a bullfighter. No one sees a bull as happy, living a special life, running in the hills of South America and bred to be active. I try to show that in my work.”

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From bold bulls to beautiful, compellingly colored landscapes, Alvarado speaks with his colors, which he mixes himself. The inherent luminosity in his work comes in part from creating a transparent glaze which he layers in. There is a serene strength and poetic power in the artist’s approach.

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“You can add surface, build texture when painting with acrylic. For the most part the medium is flat, but you can add dots and lines,” he relates.

Alvarado tells his visual stories at times using digital technology, drawing with his mouse, using Apple Air to simulate painting. “I’m currently looking at land art, the drawings in Peru, the large spirals,” he notes.

Alvarado began making art by sketching his friends at the age of 6, and he moved on to create maps. Today his work in acrylic includes a series based on the characters in Don Quixote, images that are fragmented and abstract.

His evocative works tell stories. “I was influenced a lot by my grandmother, Esther. She was a wonderful story-teller who encouraged me to read. I’m an avid reader,” Alvarado explains. 

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“The story I’m trying to tell here is of lying in tall grass in green lush fields, looking up at the sky,” he notes. “In my imagination, I create happy pieces. I paint the experiences people have, I have – and where do they take you.”

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We saw this artist’s vibrant work in his “Running with the Bulls” at Art in the Arthouse held in Laemmle’s NoHo 7 Theater- a great space for an exhibition and talk.  “Running with the Bulls” has just completed it’s “run” through early May at the Laemmle. Look for Alvarado and his fresh, stirring work elsewhere around Los Angeles in the coming months.

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  • Genie Davis; Photos: Genie Davis


Francisco Alvarado and Sophia Tise – Conversation in Colors


A dynamic duo has arrived in Los Angeles, making the city a brighter, more vibrant place, one where shape and form convey meaning. Conversations in Color opened Saturday April 9th and runs through April 24th, at the Neutra Institute in Silver Lake, featuring the work of artists Sophia Tise and Francisco Alvarado.

The two met at the studio of artist Quinton Bemiller six years ago, forging an artistic friendship based on their mutual passion for brilliant color and the juxtaposition of line and shape, as well as surprising similarities in their backgrounds.


Both of the artists’ palettes dance with Caribbean light. Tise and Alvarado have spent considerable time in the Caribbean, and time which has gifted them with the ability to absorb and integrate its images and colors into their work. Alvarado, originally from Quito, Ecuador, was stationed in Puerto Rico while in the military, and fell in love with the beaches and beauty of the island. Tise, a former resident of the U.K., used to spend a month every year vacationing on the island of Bequia in the Grenadines.


“I was fascinated that his colors were so similar to mine,” Tise says. “As we got to know each other’s work, we realized that we’d both spent time in the islands, which drew us to certain colors. We saw that the colors we use play off each other.” The balance between their works drew them to the idea of putting a show together. This carefully curated show has been two years in coming, but was worth the wait. As Tise says, “Our work sort of sings when you see our paintings up together.”


It’s the music of island sunsets, the magic of shadows, of both abstract and more figurative sensual forms sharing pulsating color, dancing to that shared song.


Along with their attraction to color and its use in creating a poetic visual story, both artists also incorporate the use of digital imagery into their traditional paintings. Tise explains “I was moving forward with iPad technology as a basis for my work. Extraordinarily, we were both doing the same thing in our individual ways.” With iPad drawings taking the place of simple pencil sketches, there is a layered quality to both of their works, a shifting, deepening lens like patterns seen through a kaleidoscope. Twist to the right or left and a completely different but related image shines through.


Alvarado’s abstract art begins with creating digital images from which he is inspired to make his paintings. He notes “I’m a prolific painter. I don’t work on a single piece, I create a series based on custom color mixes, doing multiple paintings at a time. This exhibition is my Don Quixote 2.0 series. It’s based on the technology I use to create my work, on the issues and problems of privacy that technology creates. I could see that today Don Quixote wouldn’t be fighting windmills. His battle would be with technology. This gave me the idea to leverage the symbols of technology into the characters from Don Quixote,” he explains. Among them are his Sancho Panza, whose form is inspired by a pattern of sidewalk cracks that stood out to Alvarado as he considered how to paint this character, and an angularly shaped bull that seems ready to charge from the canvas.


Each piece incorporates visuals that represent technology itself, shapes that remind viewers of a computer motherboard or the wires that connect one circuit to another, as well as fluid, sensual, curved shapes and lines.


Tise’s images have a different sort of pattern. “The small pieces in particular have to do with time spent in England in the winter. I was fascinated by the leaf form. My mother passed away at age 92, and staying with her at that time, seeing the leaves on the ground, left something strongly in my subconscious, a certain sadness. I think all artists’ pieces have a certain sadness within. It’s certainly one layer in these paintings.” She notes that her abstract paintings are very much about the natural world. “I think they’re really a cross between my time living in the U.K. and living in the Carribean. It’s a contrast between the two, the colors of the islands passed through my Englishness.”

Layering leaves and petals and embedding them in different mediums, Tise weaves her collages and their organic nature into her paintings, including images taken from her iPad and photographs, she contrasts aged linen and glossy paper. She says she likes to create “abstract worlds through combinations of lines and formlessness,” and that each painting takes shape based on what she’s created in the painting preceding it. “I let the painting happen, feel an energy, become absorbed into the process.”


Tise’s work is bold, but her softer palette and delicate combinations of mixed media are an excellent contrast to the rich mix of human and animal forms and linear and curved shapes in Alvarado’s work. Alvarado’s style seemingly conjures a link to Henri Matisse,

The artists compliment each other, forms and styles subtly twinned, colors forming a dynamic, a side-by-side vision of man and memory fused with shape, texture, and technology. For every grid, there is a curve, for every leaf, a forest of riotous rainbow colors. Both use techniques that make their colors as unique as they are vivid, mixing special shades and media.

neutra group at exhibitionCome for the color and stay for the conversation. The pieces speak to viewers much as the artists speak to each other, offering a superb give and take in styles, shades, and meaning.

The Neutra Institute is located at 2379 Glendale Blvd. Silver Lake, CA 90039.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Jack Burke