Both at Once
Raelis Vasquez and John Rivas
presented by LatchKey Gallery

“Immigrants are the mirror in which a nation sees its true self.”
-Junot Diaz

LatchKey Gallery is proud to present Both at Once, an exhibition centered around the personal narratives of painters Raelis Vasquez and John Rivas. Vasquez, born in the Dominican Republic and Rivas, whose family is from El Salvador, ambitiously approach artistic practices through the prism of their lived experience. Navigating their immigrant culture, Vasquez and Rivas share views as to what it is to be an immigrant and new American, occupying both at once. This point of view enables the artists to employ the usage of an allegorical narrative that celebrates and humanizes their lives as immigrants in the United States. Each artist finds inspiration from their families, using them as muses and a catalyst to tell their stories to mark the cultural importance of a community who, in this political climate, is often vilified. Both at Once is an exploration of the role family plays in the immigrant household as pillars of shaping personal identity and support.

Raelis Vasquez’s paintings are intimate compositions of transient moments, frozen within the canvas; universal scenes give honest access to real life. In the painting, The Beautiful Ones, three generations sit around the kitchen table, the youngest stares deeply, consumed by a thought that weighs heavily on his hunched figure while the females engage with the objects in front of them. The eldest woman is surrounded by the glow of a yellow wall, creating an aura of honor. Vasquez invites the viewer to act as an additional family member and engage emotionally with the people existing within the frame. His paintings are a great equalizer, honoring his family while allowing the viewer to step into his world; lending an honest mirror to his lived experience.

The paintings by John Rivas are a stylistic contrast to the compositions by Vasquez. However, the sentiments of family and the story of immigration resonate just as strongly. Rivas’ works are influenced by family photos, memories and stories. His paintings often occupy space like sculpture, utilizing found objects from his neighborhood in Newark, NJ to materials from his father’s job sites as his tools to construct his visual tableau. Te Extrano (I miss you) is emotionally charged with grandiose expressive gestures depicting his father as a young boy holding tightly to his mother. Objects are used as signifiers that are part of a codex that Rivas has created invite the viewer to decode the narrative. Rivas’ use of materials, his outpour of visceral emotion through gesture coupled with layered imagery lead to an emotionally charged narrative that is essential to the voice of immigrant lives.

About the Artists
Drawing on historical, political and personal narratives, Raelis Vasquez‘s paintings are figurative compositions that conjure the complexity of the Afro-Latinx experience. The figures in his work inhabit a state of vulnerability that often encourages the viewer to question their positions on class, race, and geography. Vasquez immigrated to the United States in 2002 from the Dominican Republic. Today, “I feel an overpowering responsibility (or calling) to the arts and towards my Black, Latinx, and immigrant communities.”

Vasquez paints using oils in a naturalistic manner as a means to give clarity to the subjects he presents. Speaking of his process, “While painting, I am always cognizant of the history of the western style of representation that I am involved in. To be represented is to say that the subject is worthy of representation and that the subject exists as an essential element of societal life. My devotion is to the accurate representation of the convoluted histories of the Dominican Republic. I am aiming to highlight an allegorical narrative that presents the psychological states of the figures in my works while presenting a window to the viewer of their daily lives.”

For further information on Raelis, visit him online at or follow him on Instagram.

John Rivas is a figurative painter whose narrative is guided by the stories of his ancestors. As a first generation American, Rivas’ artwork is enriched with tales of family members many of whom he’s met remotely or through photographs.

Rivas’ paintings occupy space like sculpture juxtaposing unexpected objects many of which are sourced from his childhood. His brush strokes are expressive marks that add to the visual collage. Each painting is loaded with symbolism, resulting in intimate compositions celebrating the Latin concept of family and community. Rivas is currently studying at the School of Visual Artist, NYC where his expected graduation date is 2019.

For further information on John, visit him online at or follow him on Instagram.

About LatchKey Gallery
LatchKey Gallery is a nomadic contemporary art gallery that looks to re-imagine the brick and mortar via intimately curated exhibitions, salon series and events by partnering with various spaces around NYC.  LKG is a response to the changing market place and the erosion of the traditional art gallery. It is the brain child of Style Curator Natalie Kates and gallerist/curator Amanda L. Uribe. Each with their unique curatorial approaches, they come together to create experiences centered around emerging and mid career artists.

For further information, please contact LatchKey at or visit LatchKey Gallery may be followed on Instagram.

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