Middle Tapestries (late 1984-early 1985)
In Italy For You, which portrays the Eternal City, the artist initiated the grand themes that would occupy him during this period. Emboldened by the success of the Early Tapestries and inspired by his recent tour of Italy, Collazo explored historical and philosophical themes centered around the concept of time; a reflection of his desire for an "all-encompassing awareness", to "live in all time and to see all":
"For me, the present is not just today. It is the sum of everything I have seen and felt and read before, plus today. Now is the oldest age, a hundred years older than 1884, for instance; not the newest.
Older is better. We are not in a capsule of the present. We are living for all time. That is how I live in my paintings. This cumulative experience is missing from the truncated lives in which we trap ourselves by trying to be new. A work of art frees us from this tortured circumstance."12
Matching the 80 x 70 inch size favored by de Kooning, these large abstract expressionist canvases are dominated at first by webs and then by triangular grids, as seen in The Anxious Rate of the Heart, The Beginning of Time (inspired by a mathematical diagram of that event in Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time), Style of the Month, Nekofi Cerkafi, and Moon in the Window.
Later, pages from books and fragments of tapestries enrich the paintings' allusions. Collazo delighted in shopping at stores along New York's 14th Street, buying vulgar tapestries, cutting them up in his studio and applying the fragments to his canvases. Remnants continue to appear in his paintings for more than a year. The sophisticated humor of How to Draw & Paint, for example, derives from its pages from a "how to" book on making "art" and pieces of a notoriously kitsch tapestry of bulldogs playing pool.
The entire surface of Archeology is collaged with pages from one of the artist's favorite books on that subject, evoking the passage of human time; while Terrible Lizards, with pages from a book on dinosaurs, is a contemplation of time on the geological scale. In later works, the tapestry fragments depict biblical themes; also creating a sense of history, deepening the meaning and enhancing the grandeur of the paintings.
The Paintings of Raphael Collazo: Note
12 Raphael Collazo, Statement by Raphael A. Collazo, New York, 1984.