Houben Tcherkelov, known as Houben R.T., is a Bulgarian born avant-garde artist, who explores the symbolic links between government produced images and national power and identity. Houben received his degree in painting at the Conservative Art Academy in Sofia and was associated with the Radical art movement around XXL Gallery. In his early work, he explored post-communist Bulgarian life through photography, film, and installations. Although his work was critically acclaimed, he abandoned this technique in favor of painting upon moving to New York City in 2000.
Inspired by his native Soviet Regime’s and the United States’ use of imagery to foster a national identity, he creates paintings using images derived from various currencies. Interested in exploring how these images function out of their government issued context, he isolates or repositions the images and renders them in a lyrical, colorful, and highly textured manner. In George Washington as engraved in 1867 by Alfred Sealey, Houben uses the image of Washington from the one dollar bill, but surrounds him in a dreamlike frenzy of swirling line and color.
Houben’s unique style and subject matter has earned him numerous nation wide exhibits, including shows at the Bronx Museum, NY, the Museum of Biblical Art, NY, the Brogan Museum in Florida, and the NYMEX Art Gallery at the World Financial Center, to name a few. At the Brogan Museum in Florida, Tcherkelov’s dollar bill paintings were shown alongside Andy Warhol’s, thematically linking the two artists in their representation of consumer culture and currency. In addition, Houben R.T.’s work will soon be featured in a show at the Montclair Museum in New Jersey.
Houben’s rich, colorful style is evocative of postimpressionism and abstract expressionism, however he tailors his painting style according to the image he is conveying, merging content and style in a unique and innovative way. He grinds his own pigments to achieve the intensity of color in his paintings and oftentimes uses the impasto technique to emphasize the materiality and volume of his forms. When describing his art, he states, “My work creates an environment of visual stimulation, an explosion for the senses where viewer can lose him or herself.”