UPPER EAST SIDE — Jonathan Chánduví never imagined he would become an artist. As an accomplished art and antiques restorer, he envisioned a future repairing other people’s work, not creating his own.
That changed in 2012, when Chánduví, 29, began experimenting with his restoration materials.
“I would find myself at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning waiting for a piece to dry, so I started making little projects with the leftover plaster and gold leaf or lacquer," he said, "really just to keep myself awake.”
Soon other people took notice of Chánduví’s experiments. A couple walking by his East Harlem studio stopped in to ask about one of the pieces he had hung in the space.
“I thought, if I sell this for $100, that’s great," he said. "It’s groceries for a couple of weeks."
They offered him $1,500 for the piece.
Chánduví now divides his time between restoring antiques, such as a 2,000-year-old sculpture from the Han Dynasty, and creating his own artwork. His pieces are being featured in a solo exhibit called “The 11th Hour," which will be held in the penthouse of the Azure condo building at East 91st Street, opening this Thursday and running for five months.
Many of Chánduví’s creations are abstract, large-scale, mixed-media pieces that he said are strongly influenced by the materials and techniques he uses in his restoration work.
“My work is a mixture of layers and sections and technology,” Chánduví said in a statement. “I use paint, plaster, metal, wood, plastic, glass, lights and other bits and pieces and put them together.
"My goal is to design elegant pieces that pop.”
His connections in the restoration world have also helped him launch his fledgling art career. Real estate powerhouse Douglas Elliman donated the space for this show and other contacts led to a major purchase by executives from L’Oreal.
Chánduví, who lived in Peru and Panama before fleeing to the U.S. with his family at age 9, also devotes his time to making art accessible to his neighborhood. He posts an ever-changing display of pieces outside of his storefront gallery and studio space, and encourages people to interact with it. He also hosts free art classes each Sunday that are open to anyone in the neighborhood.
“I like to put up a sign that says, ‘Please touch the art,’” he said. “It’s really funny because people don’t know how to react to that. But I feel like people are starting to get what I’m saying. Art should not be exclusive.”
Chánduví sees all facets of his work — restoration, creating and teaching — as part of a way of life.
“I think that the important thing is to just keep your imagination roaming,” he said. “I tell students that if they do that, everything else will fall into place.”
The unveiling of the exhibit will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 20, in Penthouse B.