Efrén Candelaria


Art is a communal and social act for me. Besides the solitude of the studio process, the completion and intent of every object I produce is only fully achieved by the audience’s shared experience of it as symbiotic entities that coexist. The audience is as much of a protagonist in the creation of each work as I am.

The objects I create are the physical consequence of life experiences, distilled through formal and historical concerns through the intention of making art; making stuff up through the application of pigments over flat surfaces. The resulting paintings are windows that aim to synthesize all the knowledge acquired up to that moment in time in which said objects find life beyond an idea onto a physical reality.

Social constructs, archetypes and historical nuances find a stage to perform as characters that articulate visual metaphors and disjointed narratives in every image I share with the public. Color, forms, space and semantics are the main devices I employ to depict my visual stories. I am a painter in an endless pursuit for beauty and knowledge, hoping to share every lesson learned from that quest.

Efren Candelaria graduated from the University of Miami (Florida) with a degree in painting, sculpture, and art history. He has over twenty years of experience in the art industry as an installer, museum technician, and consultant. He also taught at institutions such as The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC/SAIC).
Candelaria has a highly prolific artistic practice that has led him to present his works (including multimedia installations, paintings, and drawings) in the United States, Argentina, Puerto Rico, among others. In 2012, he shifted his studio practice toward socio economic and cultural development projects at a community centered level. He founded, together with two childhood friends, the culinary-social project “Sobremesa Chicago” in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Sobremesa Chicago was known for its focus on locally sourced ingredients, multimedia collaborations, and the act of “breaking bread” as the ideal vehicle to represent the stories and culture of Latinos in the United States.

As a social entrepreneur,Candelaria seeks to unite culture and socio-economic development processes as the basis to establish solid cultural nuclei and identities (that provide our communities with a source of pride and communal well-being.) From 2015 to 2019, he worked at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as Assistant Director of Facilities and professor in the Department of Continuing Studies. In 2019, he decided to continue his studio practice and established his painting atelier at Mana Contemporary in Chicago. More recently, in 2022, he re-established his studio practice in Brownsville, Texas, one of the southernmost cities in the contiguous U.S., where he is exploring the parallelisms in the lived experiences and cultural manifestations of colonialism related to the border.

Efrén Candelaria. Blackish Brown (El fuego comenzó a subir hacia el manco, sollamándole las piernas. En ese momento Mackandal agitó su muñón que no habían podido atar, en un gesto combinatorio que no por menguado era menos terrible, aullando conjuros desconocidos y echando violentamente el torso hacia adelante. Sus ataduras cayeron, y el cuerpo del negro se espigó en el aire, volando por sobre las cabezas, antes de hundirse en las ondas negras de la masa de esclavos. Un solo grito llenó la plaza.), 2022. Black gesso, acrylic, polymer mediums on canvas, 84" x 60" x 2". Image is courtesy of the artist.