José Gabriel brings a truly international perspective to his art. Raised in Venezuela, he attended the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London in the 1990s. While there, a fateful encounter with a Lakota shaman changed his life and artistic path, leading him to move to Denver in 2001.
José Gabriel’s work is highly symbolic, communicating universal truths and a deep belief in ancient teachings he finds relevant to contemporary life. Meticulously crafted from materials as diverse as industrial-strength magnets, buffalo hide and printed circuit boards, the works reveal meaning beneath layers of references, using familiar symbols in unfamiliar ways, giving the viewer opportunities to encounter the self and to make symbolic and emotional connections.
José Gabriel’s interest in magnets began in childhood, as his grandfather, an amateur magician, gave him an appreciation for illusions-a sense that the impossible is possible. When José saw his first industrial magnet at age 14, he was fascinated by the invisible yet tangible power held within the magnet. Now, when the magnets hidden in his sculptures are revealed to viewers, they react as children do, much to the artist’s delight.
The magnets exemplify ideas about polarity and its resulting friction and sparks, positives and negatives, attraction and repulsion. Since his first encounters with magnets, the artist has been interested in balancing the magnets’ power; hence, the tethers holding them in place. Other materials, such as wood, animal hides and metal signify the connections among the plant, animal and mineral worlds.
Although the execution of these works is sophisticated and informed, the thinking behind the work is not complex and theoretical. It finds inspiration in the parallels among quantum physics, ancient wisdom, music theory and properties of the natural world. The sculpture is about that which endures beyond the temporary-in space, time and the eternal now.
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