This painting is a perfect example of the artist’s depiction of peaches as “single-celled humans.” The composition is a deceptively simple arrangement of the artist's most notable motif. This work reckons with themes of communication and cultural genealogy—shot through with a sharply humorous edge.
Payano's work often translates and transgresses different artistic forms while examining class, storytelling, identity formation and socialization. Informed by American, Caribbean and Chinese cultures, the artist's transcultural surrealist sensibilities combine aesthetics with humor and the grotesque. Payano's work is informed by what he terms a “triple-consciousness”—a phrase based on W.E.B. DuBois’ theory of African American cultural dissonance, whereby the artist is constantly analyzing his own actions through the lens of his multiple cultural identities (in Payano's case, Afro-Latino, American, and Chinese identities). Triple-consciousness and transnationalism encourage habitual code-switching in communication—wherein one jumps between culturally specific significations or registers—informing Payano’s affinity for creating images and objects that visually, conceptually and referentially shift.
The peach, perhaps Payano’s most iconic referent, is a prime example of his visual language. The artist was inspired to fuse mouths onto peaches from multiple sources—drawing inspiration from both the English phrase “you are such a peach” and the magical peach orchards in Chinese culture. In Payano’s mind, mouthed peaches became “single-celled” humans. The mouths provide an individuality to the peaches. Likewise, the relatively simple peach shape facilitates their inclusion into more complex scenarios and metaphors.
Miguel Angel Payano Jr.’s painting and sculpture investigates storytelling, class and the formation and socialization of identity. The artist’s visual vernacular, informed by American, Caribbean and Chinese cultures, often translates and transgresses different artistic forms. Drawing influence from his life as a cultural transient between three separate worlds, Payano’s transcultural sensibilities combine surrealist aesthetics with humor and the grotesque.
Miguel Angel Payano Jr. was born in New York City in 1980. The artist received a dual degree in Studio Art and Chinese Language from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts in 2003, an MFA from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China in 2008, and a second MFA from Hunter College in New York City in 2020, where the artist was the recipient of the S&W Scholarship.
Exhibitions of Payano’s work have taken place at: Make Room Los Angeles in California (2021); the first edition of the Ad-Diriyah Biennial in Saudi Arabia (2021); NADA Miami in Florida (2021); Charles Moffett in New York City (2021); ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair in China (2020); the LDX Contemporary Art Center in Hong Kong, China (2013); Celestial Suitcase in New York City (2009); the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China (2008); and Red T Space in Beijing, China (2007).
Payano currently lives and works in New York City and Beijing, China.