Andrew Tavarelli was born and raised in New York City where he attended the city’s public schools and later received his BA from Queens College. After graduating, he undertook graduate studies in Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis and maintains an abiding interest in that discipline. He currently lives in Cambridge, MA and is a professor at Boston College, where he co-chairs the Fine Arts department.
Tavarelli’s long career as a painter began with an exhibition entitled “Three if by Air” at the Obelisk Gallery in Boston in 1969. The gallery, co-owned and co-directed by Joan Sonnabend and Phyllis Rosen, was a flash point for a new generation of artists. Since then, Tavarelli has exhibited nationally in numerous solo and group exhibitions and his work can be found in many public and private collections both here and abroad.
He has lived for periods of time in places as diverse as Northern New Mexico and Bali and has traveled widely, particularly in Asia, Indonesia and other regions in South East Asia. His fascination with these cultures has impacted his works and thinking. Such works as “A Boat in the Desert,” “Bali Book” and “Floating Worlds,” reflect his involvement with New Mexico, Bali and Japan, respectively. These interests have led him to write about and curate significant exhibitions of the indigenous art from these areas. The exhibition, Protection, Power and Display: Shields of Island Southeast Asia and Melanesia, is considered a landmark exhibit and publication.
Peripatetic by nature, I have linked my work as an artist to my travels. Travel, as a source of visual imagery and inspiration, has long been a part of both the European and American painting traditions. For me, the American Southwest, Asia, Southeast Asia and Indonesia occupy a special place in my heart and in my mind’s eye. The natural and cultural landscapes of those places are formative sources for my own art.
My recent work investigates the relation between nature and culture. I am fascinated by the ways different cultures present idealized visions of the natural and social world. My paintings and prints reference images from Art Deco; Japanese ukiyo-e prints; medieval heraldry; film noir and Balinese shadow puppets. Through the use of bold, flat design, crisp, fluid drawing and strong color, these approaches produced powerful images that were concerned with idealized beauty and saturated with social politics. For me these images are custom made for exploring the complexity of social relations; the meeting of eastern and western ideals; and, above all, my own ideas of visual power and beauty.