Jose Durán
B.  1979
Moca, the Dominican Republic

Jose Duran is a painter, designer, and sculptor, born in the Dominican Republic in 1979.

Creating fantastical worlds of cosmopolitan opulence and sumptuous, dangerous foliage, Jose Duran’s practice is anchored in extensive research of Black people’s practices of survival, celebration, vengeance, sabotaje, and aspirational desires. Delicately wielding masterted techniques and whimsical sleight of hands, the artist creates marbled textures and mottled strokes that mirror the excess of his compositions. Drawing from baroque and rococo interiors to create scenes of architectural lavishness and femininity, Duran designs complex compositions that compel the eye to travel and anchor the work in whimsy and play. Duran places Black feminine figures at the center of his worldbuilding as a reclamation of Black women’s contributions to European markers of taste and the ties between Black colonial labor, in particular Black feminine labor, and European wealth. By fabulating a visual world of fantasy, Duran retrospectively places these women at the center of lavish interiors, as they reap the fruits of their labor. 
Jose Duran was born in the town of Moca in the Dominican Republic, where he lived and studied until he migrated to the United States in 1995, at age 16. Duran’s paintings are an ode to the legacy of his mother, who found immense pleasure in hosting soirées for other women. Duran’s mother worked as a hairstylist out of their Bronx apartment, and on any given day there were dozens of women shuffling in and out of their home, imbuing in the artist a taste for feminine cosmopolitanism and beauty. When they would travel back to the Dominican Republic, their home would be filled with guests from all parts of town. For the artist, painting scenes of Black women in opulent interiors is an ode to the dreams, hopes, and aspirational desires of his mother, who covered their beds in faux satin and draped the windows with opulent curtains, in order to create a vision that evoked baroque salons. 

Jose Duran began painting after traveling to spend time at the Black Rock residency, founded by his close friend and collaborator Kehinde Wiley. Duran’s vision has been cultivated from years of partnerships with renowned fine artists and has culminated in a unique and expansive artistic practice.

Artist Statement:

My work is a constant search for the best way to interpret the ideas that I have about myself and the world I live in. I do not limit myself to one medium, style, or concept. I am a sculptor, a painter, a furniture maker, a fashion designer, an artist.

When I paint or create sculptures I feel like I am having a conversation with the medium used at the moment, the textile tells me where it wants to be placed. The interaction with the brush strokes tells me what shapes, directions and intensity of each stroke. I am just the translator between the medium and the subject. 

Having an interaction with the medium I am using to create art is very important for me as an artist. Having a connection with the subject is also very meaningful, as they help create scenes and interiors that I, as a black-latin person, was never able to see myself in. I am creating a fantasy that the rest of the world could never see me living in it, taking inspiration from the Renaissance movement and its architecture, in conjunction with architecture,  interior design, and decor motifs from the 1980s and 90s New York Black Latino community. As I travel the world and meet people from other cultures they often have the wrong impression of my background and culture; as I create art, I will be able change people’s view towards my background and culture. 

As a multidisciplinary artist,  I find inspiration in nature, history and social problems. One of my latest projects included an investigation on the use of cotton and textiles for slave trade. During the trade triangle, African slaves were traded for Indian textiles and transported to the Caribbean and to the south of the United States. In response, I created sculptures using discarded material and textiles , making tents to provide shelter in public places, and covering found furniture to create shelter and give objects a new life.

There is also a time-based quality to the physicality found in my work. By working across multiple pieces at once, documenting and recording my experiences, memory and emotional responses to the subject means that what lies beneath is sometimes subdued or intentionally hidden. I am compelled by what might be revealed and obscured by this approach. These compilations, with imagery and text sometimes masked, develop over time. Marks made today require  a response to the mark of yesterday. 

In this way, I try to build a perspective of the baroque Afro-Caribbean identity, product of inheritances and manifests, rooted in our popular diasporic imaginary, through a very particular investigation in a crossroads of traditions inside and outside the territory, proposing a disruptive speech of Caribbean modernity, loaded with elements of our miscegenation. For the Caribbean is a cultural mosaic of languages and behavior so diverse.