With Designing Utopias, MADMi presents the first solo exhibition of Nathan Budoff’s work at a museum in Puerto Rico. In this exhibition, Budoff offers the public an opportunity to see a selection of paintings that propose fantastic and harmonious scenarios very relevant to this moment on our planet.
Budoff has constantly incorporated animals in his paintings and other works. His animals are free, intelligent, resourceful, active participants, to the point that in this most recent work, humans might even be completely absent. Budoff’s works are vibrant, not only because of the color saturation and the physical juxtapositions, but in the impossible scenarios that he designs for these creatures. The paintings are mainly large in scale, a format that lends ample space in which the artist is able to create far-fetched scenarios of interspecies interaction that provide the viewer with a showcase of beauty, balance, and hope.
Sharks share the pictorial space with meerkats, octopi glide through Santurce, tigers fly with owls through the metropolis, bears levitate, elephants defy gravity, and whales swim through the skyline of Hato Rey’s financial district. Some of these works do incorporate human figures, but these figures feel mostly like secondary characters or even extras, and we never see their faces, so they also feel like generic versions or theatrical props. The aesthetics of Medieval bestiaries, Surrealism, Japanese manga, and comic books merge into Budoff’s fantastic scenarios, imbuing them with a sense of humor combined with a respect for and intellectual curiosity about the lives of these animals, which the artist clearly admires and wishes to protect.
In these paintings and drawings, Budoff offers an array of magnificent improbabilities, for which we suspend our disbelief and wish—dream—for their possibility within a utopia unpolluted by humans, an outcome many of us long for. These possibilities may be Surrealistic in their nature or even mystical in their celebratory vibrancy, but as we know, one sure thing about Nature is that it will always surprise us with its adaptability, power, and wisdom.