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Laugh a little

Jorge Montero’s new exhibition on view at Cork House Gallery

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Jorge Montero’s exhibition "The Laughter After" is proof that trying something new is always rewarding.

A graphic designer and SCAD professor by day, Montero found some old canvases in his garage and decided to work out some new material.

That body of work, “The Laughter After,” is on display now at the Cork House Gallery through Dec. 5.

Sonny Jelinek, the owner of Jelinek Creative Spaces, asked Montero to help him open the new gallery space with an exhibition, and Montero took the chance.

He found a sketchbook from years ago of illustrations of faces he’d done. The faces are cartoonish, almost like a caricature, and all smiling.

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“They’re all ambiguous representation,” he says, flipping through the sketchbook. “Is it a baby, or is it an old man?”

It’s a fun body of work, and Montero kept working on it through the summer.

“All summer I was working on these pieces,” he says. “I printed some copies and thought, ‘Let’s play with faces,’ but transferring them to canvas was hard. It’s not an easy media. I got a little frustrated, and another day I started liking it.”

After the initial frustration, Montero pushed through and tried new things with the body of work. The

“I try to have a clean background with a very contrasting color,” he says. “When I have these paintings in my studio, it’s in a little house, in my backyard. When they’re on the pile, it doesn’t really show the potential [to be] in a space. I was very insecure about making them.”

At the Cork House Gallery, Montero also has some smaller pieces, done on wood panel and cork.

“I like the texture of the cork. On wood, it’s harder,” he explains. “Sometimes the surfaces are more glossy, and the ink didn’t really absorb. I think the imperfections make more unique pieces.”

Most of the pieces in the show are of faces, but Montero also did some hands and body studies—all of men.

“One of my daughters asked me, why always males? Why no females?” Montero shares. “I said, ‘Women are beautiful, so making ugly faces—that’s for men.”

It’s clear through the show that Montero has a graphic design background, mainly through the inclusion of his sketches.

“Graphic design is very broad. There are a lot of famous, influential graphic designers who are also illustrators,” says Montero. “That enriches your work—you don’t have to be an illustrator to be a graphic designer, but it helps.”

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Next up for Montero is to use charcoal on graph paper to create the faces, and he’s also considering making a merchandise line. Regardless of what he does next, it’s imperative for him to just keep pushing and trying new things.

“In my life, for any reason, I’ve started things that I didn’t continue,” says Montero.

In the 90s, Montero created a comic strip that would go on to become the only Venezuelan strip in the newspaper.

“Nobody had one that before, and not even after,” he says. “I didn’t continue that, but here in the United States, you have more possibility because the condition of society allows you to pursue things. I don’t want that to happen again, so now that my kids are in college, I have more time. With the time I have, I’m going to try to continue [this series] until the end. More paintings like that, more silkscreens, now charcoal.”

Ultimately, being around students all day is a major inspiration for Montero.

“I really love having an idea and making it happen,” says Montero. “I try to do that every day. I get super excited, like a kid. I still feel like I’m twelve years old; I guess that happens when you’re surrounded by kids. I reinvent myself all the time.”

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