PAPEL: Tavar Zawacki


Rhodes Contemporary Art is delighted to announce PAPEL a new exhibition by American abstract artist Tavar Zawacki. The show explores Zawacki’s minimalistic take on trompe-l'œil style, merging optical illusion with a clean line of his recognisable geometrical abstraction.


Tavar Zawacki was born in 1981 and raised in California until the age of 19, when he bought a one-way ticket to Paris, France, bringing along a backpack full of art supplies and 'rise above your fears' approach. There, Tavar started his art career, transitioning from painting traditional letter style graffiti of A-B-O-V-E to his 'Above arrow' icon that represented his optimistic mentality. During a 20-year period, the artworks of ABOVE could be seen in over 100 cities spanning 50 countries around the world.


A year 2017 marked Zawacki’s decision to step out of his self-imposed shadow of anonymity and start creating and signing contemporary artworks with his real birth name – allowing more freedom of creative exploration, as well as liberation from the arrow icon he has associated himself with.


In February of 2020, a month before the spread of the global pandemic, Zawacki left his home in Berlin, Germany, and moved to Bali, Indonesia. With challenging uncertainties of the Lockdown period unfolding around and anxieties caused by it – an experience shared universally – the collection helped the artists to cope in a healthy and positive way. Every painting became a reflection of what he felt during the time span from March 2020 until April 2021, making the series the most personal and honest in Zawacki’s career so far.


Initially creating without any exhibition in mind, Tavar was spending an average of 9-10 hours painting alone, which allowed him to discover new styles that felt authentic in the process. He explains:


There wasn’t any pressure to try to have a certain style. And during that process what I started to discover is what I was really intrigued in was a lot of white open space, and still incorporating the trompe-l'œil; the illusion that having a flat painting but making it look like it's coming off the wall or the space.


On the first painting of the series – PAPEL 01, 2022 – Tavar utilizes deep shades of Heavy Body Acrylic. The aesthetically pleasing composition created by the contrasting combination of crimson red and navy blue is magnified by the darker burgundy shade of the shadow and snow-white canvas. On the contrary, PAPEL 152022 engages solely with a vivid orange against the tintless background, allowing the viewer to focus on the composition of elongated rectangles, which look like two strips of paper peeling off right in front of us.


Tavar Zawacki’s style, prominent on both, his large-scale mural works as well as his indoor fine art, places him directly in dialogue with that of Josef Albers and Ellsworth Kelly. His work has been showcased in galleries and creative institutions around the world since 2005, including New York City, Berlin, San Francisco, Zurich, Sydney, Milan, and Paris.


PAPEL series takes a refreshingly new approach towards the classic combination of rudimental forms and colours and invites you to submerge into an optical illusion of Zawacki’s minimalist world of hard-edge geometrical abstraction.


Alongside these original exhibition works, Rhodes Editions will also be offering an exclusive new print edition released to coincide with the exhibition.

Installation Views