Artist Bio and Available Art Pieces
Brooklyn, NY, United States. 1972
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Brooklyn, NY
1998 Columbia University, Master of Science in Advance Architectural Design, New York
1995 California College of Arts and Crafts, Bachelors of Architecture, California
2018 Love, Woof Pack, Bangkok, Thailand
2017 Reality of My Life, Art & Art Gallery, Miami, USA
Shukke, Latar Art Space, Jakarta, Indonesia
Shukke, Art1, Jakarta, Indonesia
Surrender, Art Stage, Singapore,
2016 Surrender, Serindia, Bangkok, Thailand
My Tokyo, Tokyobike, New York, USA
Everything Is As It Is, Roppongi Hills, Tokyo, Japan
2015 Everything Suffers, Rzim, Sasayama, Japan
Impermanence, Nambatei, Okayama, Japan
2017 Love, Art Jakarta, Jakarta, Indonesia
Ginga, WSMA, Tenakawa, Japan
Hotel Art Fair, Bangkok, Thailand
2016 Humility, WSMA, Uda, Japan
Hotel Art Fair, Bangkok, Thailand
Because This Exist, That Exist, WSMA, Uda, Japan
2015 Open Studio, Miami, USA
Emptiness, WSMA, Uda, Japan
2006 New Drawings, Matter, New York, USA
2005 Love: Conversation, Matter, New York, USA
Douglas Diaz was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1972.
His early childhood bore the stamp of the Dominican diaspora in the early 70s: a multi-generational household filled with relatives, friends, neighbors, all coming and going. Each visit would bring tales of distant places, large feasts and lively conversations that stretched late into the evenings with topics often not suitable for his young ears. If his home life was heavily marked by the social political realities of immigrants in search for a better life, the same should be said about Brooklyn during those years. On the one hand, he experienced the birth of Hip-Hop and urban street culture, with its graffiti and breakdancing, and at home it was, soap operas, merengue, and mangu that ruled life. Cultural intermingling was the hallmark and foundation that would deeply shape his life throughout. Like many kids who grew up in between cultures, Douglas preferred the intersection of things.
Douglas began drawing at an early age. Art was his refuge, a mechanism to navigate the world. Encouraged to draw by his parents and grandmother, Douglas would spend long hours, lost in the creation of his own world, while straddling the cacophony of daily life.
By the age of nine, Douglas had already developed a pattern of traveling between several countries, when his mother remarried and settled down in Caracas Venezuela. The following 7 years would see his artistic talent cultivated, first at home through his parent’s own creativity and interest, as well as through intensive art classes. Caracas with its wealth of museums, traveling shows, and art installations exposed him to world-class artists and writers: Braque, Picasso, Cruz-Diez, Goya, Marquez, Fuentes, Cortázar, Borges, Llosa, amongst many others.
Spending the academic year in Caracas and the summers in Brooklyn would only intensify the foundation of contrasting lives that had already developed earlier in his childhood. This constant traveling would bring about a certain level of comfort in negotiating the overlaps and disparities presented by the exposure to powerful influences such as the Latin American Boom, Surrealism, Cubism, and New York urban street culture. He grew to understand that building bridges and the diversification of interest could be a valuable skillset in dealing with life’s challenges. High School graduation would take him back to New York. He first took an architectural course at Parsons School of Design in the continuing education program, then at the suggestion of his instructor he signed up for live drawing classes at the Art Student League of New York. After much contemplation between architecture and fine arts, he decided to major in Architecture, completing a 5-year degree at California College of Arts and Crafts, San Francisco – Oakland. His perennial interest for art would not disappear complete, as he would spend equal amount of time between architectural courses and across the Bay on the Oakland campus taking fine art classes.
By 1995, two weeks after graduation, at the encouragement of a faculty member, Douglas would have his first art show. A group exhibition at New Langton Arts, one of the first alternative art spaces dedicated to new media in the United States.
His exhibition, ‘Untitled: Strategies of Awareness’, examined the urban fabric in and around New Langton Arts. The work itself, a multimedia installation that married architecture and art to his growing field of interest: the mundaneness of daily life. Despite being well received, Douglas put his artistic pursuits on hold. After many years of working part time, Douglas decided to give architecture his full attention. In two years, Douglas managed to work in several prestigious offices with local and international client lists (Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.). By late 1996, he would be tempted to return to New York in order to pursue a graduate degree in architecture, to quench his thirst for a more rigorous intellectual practice.
Attending Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture (1997-1998) would count as one of the most influential experiences of his life. There he would meet people that eventually would lead him to Japan, Thailand, India and many other places as well as challenging him to develop his own theoretical practice. Graduating with a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Studies, Douglas would go on to teach in several academic institutions in the United States, including, Columbia University, Pratt Institute, Bennington College, and Parsons School of Design — where he held the position of Assistant Professor across 3 departments.
Almost a decade of teaching experience across graduate and undergraduate programs in fields as diverse as architecture, new media, product design, and urban design, allowed Douglas to sharpen his thinking and develop a methodology of practice that went beyond disciplinary boundaries. During this decade long tenure, Douglas would maintain a design studio with several private clients and have a few art shows (2005-2006). His art practice would remain secondary to his principal focus: academia and design. As his time in academia drew to a close, Douglas made the jump to corporate life, first as an Executive Creative Director for a digital advertising firm, then as a Managing Director of a small boutique design firm and eventually to his own consultancy. This later work would take him to Japan, England, and China for several large multimedia, state-of-the-art projects. While the work was rewarding financially and professionally, there always seem to be something missing. Regardless of the challenges from clients, the work never brought him personal satisfaction. He always felt a lack of purpose for doing the work. This produced a growing disconnect between his need to grow as a human being and his daily routine in the agency world. It would not be far-fetched to conclude that a personal crisis was brewing.
During a month long trip in Japan he came across an artist that would steer him back into art. Deep in the mountains of Yoshino County in the Nara Prefecture of Japan, renowned to be the most spiritual and sacred of places, he encountered a clarity and peace that would change his life once more. During the first days of his trip, he would meet Sakamoto Kazuyuki, an artist heavily influenced by the Gutai group of the late 60s. Sakamoto san would impart in Douglas the need to cultivate a daily practice, steeped in spiritual rigor that placed a greater emphasis on the body rather than the mind in order to achieve the purest expression of the soul.
Over the course of 7 months Douglas would visit Sakamoto san more than 5 times, with each visit becoming more deeply indoctrinated into an artistic practice built on self-discipline, freedom and individual expression.
Returning to Hawaii, where he had moved a year earlier, Douglas dedicated his entire life to his new found passion. While living in a remote village on the Hamakua coast of the Big Island, he met a retired Zen priest that would introduce him to the teachings of Uchiyama, the renowned abbot of Antai-ji, in Kyoto Japan. Uchiyama’s teachings would lay the foundation of Douglas’ spiritual pursuit. In his teachings he started to understand that the purpose of his life laid within him. The more he read and practiced zazen, the more his personal crisis was adverted. The disciplined spiritual approach of the Sōtō school of Zen Buddhism’s was the perfect companion to his daily drawing practice. The more he practiced, the more he understood himself and the closer he got to a pure expression. He was now hooked, his only quest was to see how far he could go. This would lead him back to Japan, this time for two years.
Relocating deep in the mountains of Nara (2015), simplified many things in Douglas’ life. Most importantly, it allowed him to focus on his art as a way of addressing the imbalance he felt over the years spent both in academia and in corporate life: an acute lack of purpose. Art became the vehicle by which to explore his new sense of self — and to gain the same feeling of refuge he enjoyed as a young boy in Brooklyn, wandering into art for the first time.
Soon after arriving in Japan, he started to exhibit. His first exhibition after a decade long hiatus explored themes discovered through Zen: questions of the self in relationship to the impermanence of life. It was during the preparation of this work that he fine-tuned the process he uses to this day. The process of drawing has to begin with a meditation (zazen) to clear the mind and allow thoughts to roam freely. This gives way to what really is present both emotionally and energetically within his body — and not in the mind.
Before thoughts, images or even concepts can take hold, Douglas begins to draw. Transitioning from a seated meditation to drawing on the floor allows for a direct translation between the clarity attained during zazen to the expression on paper or canvas. Everything in the process has been reduced to its minimal elements. This reductionism is most evident in his choice of mediums: graphite and paper.
For the first year, Douglas would struggle to maintain focus during the execution of a drawing. To aid in the process, he started to count his mark making. Each movement of his arm back and forth over the drawing surface would leave a trace of graphite. He counted each line. At first, the drawings contained 100 lines. Quickly his mind was able to multitask and veer off. He increased the number to 1,001, then eventually to 10,010 (or 10 times 1,001).
Over time drawings grew more complex and the number of lines increased, most noticeably in ‘Thoughts’ (2015), which contained 42,000 and measured 4 x 5 meters. The rapid rise in numbers, scale and complexity became testaments of a bravado approach that distracted his practice of centering and finding the reality of any given moment. Having the awareness to evaluate and refocus his spiritual and artistic practice became paramount for the evolution his work. Both 2015 and 2016 were very productive years, culminating in 10 shows, half of which were solo exhibitions, across Japan, Thailand, and the United States. ‘Surrender’ a breakthrough exhibition in Bangkok, saw the evolution of Douglas as an artist. The central theme was in response to the untimely passing of his older brother, and the personal challenges that he faced. The work was finely poised between deeply personal narratives and the universality of death and life.
After moving to Bangkok to explore new horizons, and with his latest body of work, ‘Surrender’ receiving critical acclaim in Art Stage Singapore (2017), Douglas was invited to his first solo museum show in Art:1 New Museum, Jakarta (2017). Spanning the last 3 years of his life, ‘SHUKKE’ (a Japanese term which means ‘to leave home’) contained more than 70 pieces and occupied all 4,000 square meters (43,000 square feet) of the museum. The work explored the journey of leaving behind an incomplete version of himself in order to become an inclusive self. Through 5 different stages, Douglas was able to map out his personal journey in terms that were applicable to anyone that has faced adversities brought upon by change.
While Douglas’ work tends to be driven by the need to gain awareness and remain focused on the here and now, he often finds himself at the intersection of things, traveling between homes, cultures, or disciplinary boundaries. The fact that this in-between space has been a major theme of his life, it also reaffirms the quest to create work that is binary in nature; on one side it is personal and individualistic, while on the other it explores the themes that make any of us human.