El pasado viernes 15 de octubre se inauguró en el InterAmerican Campus del Miami Dade College la exposición 8 de la 8, un concepto de Jorge Gutiérrez (Director y Curador jefe del MDC Art Gallery System) con curaduría de Rafael López-Ramos. El proyecto presentó la obra de estos ocho artistas, vinculados de diversa manera al entorno de la icónica Calle 8 del South West miamense:
Nereida García Ferraz
Reinaldo López Sobrado
He aquí algunas imágenes de las obras expuestas y de la inauguración.
Nana y Stephanie, drawing & collage / paper, 45" x 38", 2009
Puerta al Sur, mixed media / canvas, 24" x 30", 2008
Nereida García Ferraz
The Dream of ones, the Nightmare of others, oil / wood panel, 9" x 9" each, 2009
(from the Calle 8 Contrastes series)Radio S / Botánica, digital photography, 20” x 10”, 2009
Human Drawing No. 22, digital print / heavy paper, 38" x 44", 2005
Reinaldo López Sobrado
Vendida, mixed media / heavy paper, 16" x 20", 2007
Eight artists from Calle Ocho
The Tamiami Trail is the southernmost 275 miles of U.S. Highway 41 from State Road 60 in Tampa to U.S. Route 1 (SR 5) in Miami. Its east-west section is a road (hidden SR 90) that goes from Naples through the Everglades (forming the northern border of Everglades National Park) and becomes Southwest Eighth Street in Miami-Dade County or Calle Ocho in the Little Havana district, where the Cuban exile community settled historically and an increasingly diverse community of Latin-American people settled in over the last two decades.
Nevertheless, this sector of Miami is infused with an inveterate Cuban character that manifest itself through a number of landmarks, institutions and businesses which function as a permanent reminder of the still ongoing exodus produced by the longest run “government” in the Western hemisphere. The Tower Theater, Calle Ocho Walk of Fame, Máximo Gómez Domino Park, 2506 Brigade Memorial, La Carreta and Versailles restaurants or the numerous cigar factories, spotted along the mythical street are all ineffable witnesses of a cultural milieu that grew up solidly ingrained with a boosting mixture of lost, nostalgia and hope feelings.
When Jorge Gutiérrez envisioned the idea of the present exhibition Ocho de la ocho (Eight from the Eighth), he aimed at a concept that implicitly reflected all of the above while jumping beyond certain shallow vernacular that only feeds a clumsy old stereotype for tourists. A week from the opening date, Gutierrez named me as curator for the project and I went from the initial panic to an adrenaline high, a kind of challenging feeling, rewarding and compulsive alike, which helped me to came about with a vision that aimed at a concept which mingled a not so shallow vernacular and a contemporary perspective. Thus, the exhibition brings together eight contemporary artists whose works are recurring to different media, techniques and concepts while aiming at different concerns, from cultural and social life on 8th Street itself to existential issues, and everything in between: postindustrial nostalgia or pre apocalyptic dystopic fantasies, Neo Pop, and Neo expressionist practices -whether they are painted on canvas or digitally printed drawings.
Going down Eight Street further east the viernes culturales hot spot -around 15th avenue-, and closer to downtown, we find the 3rd Street's José Martí Building (another landmark of Cubanness, though a different one), housing the 801 Projects which curates some of the most edgy shows in the city, and hosts Camposition an artists collective pushing the boundary between contemporary performance and activism. However, this venue also fosters several artists’ studios, among them, Angela Valella, Nereida García Ferraz, Pedro Portal, and Luis Soler. This building is definitively more than an architectural space, roof / umbrella to the arts, an institution that helps anticipating and configuring a new genius loci to Calle Ocho's distinctive atmosphere.
Angela Valella's collages and ink drawings on heavy paper go beyond the conventional concepts of collage or drawing, being something closer to an over sized scrapbook. The photographic images clipped to the paper through the most unorthodox artistic methods, like scotch tape, suggest memorabilia, places and people, that creates a counterpoint to the drawings of familiar characters, establishing a balance between the urban, as epitome of the public, and the most private and intimate space we may find within our own minds: human memory.
Nereida García Ferraz presents a triptych created with oil on wood panels in a small square format, depicting three characters, rendered in her distinctive figurative expression, marked by a synthetic minimal quality. Each image seems to carry a philosophical comment on the inextricable relation between the economical advantaged and the disadvantaged ones, a sort of Ying/Yang relationship described quite graphically by its own title: The Dream of ones, the Nightmare of others.
The two photographs by Pedro Portal are the exhibit's works which directly focus on 8th Street's social and cultural realm. A diptych portrays a small group of women and a little girl who take a night relaxed walk while window-shopping. The two pictures display them first on front of a famous electronics chain store and them by the next-door merchant, a botánica, typical supplier of all religious needs for Santería and Catholicism practitioners, making a point on a faith that seems to equally rest upon high tech, free market and Saints. The other Portal's photography depicts a Cuban homeless usually seen around Little Havana and along 8th Street, fully explaining the title of the series to which both works belong: Calle Ocho contrasts.
Luis Soler's work addresses identity issues in relation to the main social and political realities that dominate the Cuban nationality today. Soler, through a symbolic visual narrative recurring to a few leitmotivs like uprooted or wind battered palms, lonely characters and fish fossils, all evoking a downbeat atmosphere that speaks of defeat and dissolution, while the latter embodies a dark remembrance of his raft trip across the Florida straight during which his legs were bitten by fishes.
Adalberto Delgado is an early life 8th Street resident who have witnessed Miami's transformation over the years, being part of its art scene since the 80s decade, as co-founder of the Nada group with Fredric Snitzer, and founder of the now defunct 6g Alternative Space, two blocks from Calle Ocho. The two paintings selected for this exhibition are from a series of neo-expressionist portraits, he dedicated to homage some of his former friends and neighbors from "La Paloma," a dwelling only a few blocks from Calle Ocho where he spent his adolescence and early youth. Delgado's paintings translate old black and white or color fading pictures into eye-popping colorful renderings of his portrayed subjects, an artistic process that supplants nostalgia with creative force.
Natasha Perdomo chooses the landscape to reflect on postindustrial civilization while giving a wink to certain kitschy aesthetic traditionally associated to this painting genre. Her work brings together the backlighting and architectural ruins, elements so deeply anchored in Romanticism. However, her pre apocalyptic vision is infused with a nightmarish atmosphere that has more of a premonition than a remembrance. Those seemingly out of curse waters run over former architectural structures devoured by a definitely un-landscaped garden wildly growing into a jungle, carry on a distinctive visual narrative deceptively rooted in the past, just to speak about possible futures.
Raimundo Travieso draws a quite blurring line between poetry and drawing, as his work could be easily related to both, literary and visual genres, actually being for him a sort of meditation that seems to be closer to the Japanese haiku than the western sonnet. He actually think of himself as "a poet who writes in a universal language, the language of drawing." However, Travieso's Neo-figurative expression is translated into digital bits and then printed out on paper blowups.
Reinaldo López Sobrado’s drawings radiate Pop influences, in the way he organizes visual space, while playing in the brink between graphic design, drawing, painting and print. Right in the center of such a threshold Lopez Sobrado cultivates an artistic practice that merges skillfully drawn images and photographic transfers, rubber stamping and other techniques first applied by Pop artists like Larry Rivers or Robert Rauschenberg since the late 50s.
Finally, 8 from the 8th also bears an implicit reflection on Miami’s Cuban community physical and cultural displacement, and does so from a perspective that chooses to focus on the gains rather than the losses, thinking of the future more than the pass. Here we may have another synecdoche of the Tamiami Trail, which back in 1928 was considered a feat of engineering, though in the long run its roadway have acted as a dam blocking the water flow from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay, with a devastating effect on the ecology of the Everglades National Park. The United States Army Corps of Engineers recommended the construction of a 3000-foot-long causeway in the northeast section of Everglades National Park, all road fill removed, the maintenance of 57 culverts that are already in place, and controlling the appropriate water flow rate under the non-causeway portions of the Tamiami Trail. The proposed project, called the Everglades Skyway by the Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, and other organizations engaged in an Internet-based effort to lobby Florida and United States government officials, is still pending funding by both governments. The most stunning part of that synecdoche is the perfect correlate we can perceive (money wise) between the cultural and natural environments in South Florida.