Hybrid Topographies – Encounters from Latin America

60 Wall Gallery, Deutsche Bank
February 12 – May 14, 2018

Hybrid Topographies presents contemporary artists from Latin America who share an engagement with the landscape, whether urban or rural.  The works on view weave a multiplicity of narratives that stem from a place of encounters as a means to understand the other and as potential sites for change and transformation.  The agency of artists is at play in works ranging from Claudia Andujar’s documentation of the Yanomami people of the Amazon to Jesús “Bubu” Negrón’s use of the marimbula, a percussion instrument from the Caribbean, as a tool for community building.

Central to the artist’s practice is a strong interest in history, the legacy of colonialism and a quest for their roots.  Combining both new and historical sources and materials, the artists employ hybridity not only as a conceptual framework but also as a way to blur the boundaries across different media to address questions of identity, invisibility and otherness.  Artists like Carlos Castro Arias, William Cordova and María Elvira Escallón bring symbols from the past into the present, collapsing temporalities to signal the cultural hybridity and diversity of Latin America’s people, and a modern vernacular forged by shared co-existence.

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Bruno Miguel: Todos à Mesa

Galeria Emma Thomas, São Paulo
October 11 – November 13, 2014

Bruno Miguel delves into the material and conceptual issues of painting through an innovative use of non-traditional materials that include resin, found objects, wood, studio leftovers and Companhia das Indias tableware from a vast collection acquired in antique stores or at auction. “Todos à Mesa”, the title of the exhibition, references this collection, as well as his mom’s imperative command to sit at the table for a meal. The exhibition unites his interest in the representation of common, everyday experience with a diligent, but often playful formal practice that draws inspiration from his personal history and surroundings, pop culture and the media.

At the heart of the work is the question of representation and the slippery boundary between what is real and what is not. Mimicking the designs found on the plates he collects, Miguel employs trompe l’oeil in works like Negação (2014) as a metaphor for the increasingly complex nature of fact and fiction and how information is perceived, delivered, represented and understood today. He updates the tradition of painstaking trompe l’oeil by painting over both porcelain and dried paint lids, thus confounding the viewer. As an inveterate collector, for Miguel, the process of collecting and displaying objects and images is a means of generating a narrative about one’s own identity and who we might be, or wish to be, as a people. As such, it is interesting to note that he choses to collect and incorporate Companhia das Indias porcelain, which has been historically associated with Westerner’s long held desire to customize objects. After Portugal established commercial trade routes to the Far East in the early sixteenth century, Western monarchs, statesmen, leading families and others, eagerly acquired Chinese porcelain. Porcelain’s primary appeal was that it could be designed to order. Many of the pieces or entire dinner sets were decorated with family armorials or designs reproduced from drawings or engravings that had been sent to China as a reference. Companhia das Indias is considered by many as the first multinational corporation in the world.

These objects bring a personal and historical touch, and give Miguel an impressively assertive surface to work on. Negação is an installation of thirty-four plates hung to resemble a wall size X. Consisting of six central plates that make up a circle and radiate outwards, at first sight it seems as if there are many more given that Miguel uses trompe l’oeil to create new plates that seem to be fragmented because a single plate is painted on two or three different plates that are physically separate. This piece is also an example of his wonderful use of the stripe as an incremental, structural element. Thick stripes of neon yellow, green, pink and orange paint swirl over all the plates uniting the composition. As its labored and delicate appearance suggests, the work is the result of a slow and painstaking process, entirely handmade by the artist and his assistants.

Most of Miguel’s work is the result of hybridity. Born out of aesthetic collisions and layering that reveal his unique relationship to material and image, his works can be daintily detailed and virtuosic like Negação, while also looking snazzy and rugged. This comes through most clearly in his series Cozinha (2014) where he deals with narratives of surface, materiality and studio process. Here the delicate application of paint resembling famille rose enamels is applied to decorate and conceal Miguel’s “non-art materials,” such as palettes and dried paint lids, which become materials in their own right. Every bit of surface is covered in these graffiti-fueled works, lightened by energetic strokes of bright color or zaps of spray paint that bounce off one another anarchically. In addition, he has added a round layer of viscous resin, resembling a glass plate, to the protective glass that makes the images beneath waver and shift, revealing an atmosphere of baroque excess combined with improvisational daring.

In “Todos à Mesa” Miguel stretches painting as both a conceptual and formal construct and deals with more passions than might be expected. Throughout his young career, he has already shown that consistency is hardly on his mind or the hallmark of his style. This whimsical artist who adores Coke bottles and anything vintage, from Muppet Babies to cups, nearly as much as he does Oriental porcelain, treats his collecting and works as a link to the glorious past and a sly form of political rebellion against the present.

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The Skin I Live In

Laboratório Curatorial, SP-Arte, São Paulo
April 2 – 7, 2013

Strange seizures beset us when we see the interior of our body. The opposite is also true. The Skin I Live in presents artists who explore the notion of the body, inside and outside, not only as a physical space, but also as a mental, political and affective space. The inside is explored by means of endoscopic cameras, reproductions of organs or manifestations of a breath. The outside is explored through its reflections in photography, photocopies and mirrors.

The coexistence of the inside and outside embodies the contradiction of something unknown, yet familiar, locating the body as a site of opposites. This bifurcation is revealed by the complex and diverse meanings that are encapsulated in the works. Several have surreal undertones; they communicate the body eroticized through latent expressions of desire, an exchange of fluids or magnets that pull towards one and other. The body is also understood as a site for alchemy, transformation or thwarted intimacy.

Biographical inflections are present in some works, positing the body as a conduit amongst generations, a succession of semblances, ties and ages. Others are expressions about the body in exile, foreign, abstracted. Several works expose the body as a site of protest, entrapped, pierced, transgressed, restrained; or present the body as language, questioned, interrupted, silenced. At times, the works are extensions of the artist’s body, turning it simultaneously into subject and object. Some, meant to be touched, bare traces of the artist’s hands, now physically gone but tacitly present, speaking of absence and the fragility of being.

The use of mirrors as a conduit for self-reflection plays a significant role throughout the exhibition. It brings about the viewer’s likeness, involving them personally and physically, turning the body in question into that of the viewer. Recalling Jacques Lacan’s concept of the Mirror Stage (1936) – when a child becomes conscious of his or her self-image, a stage whose function is that of establishing a relationship between the child and its reality – the presence of mirrors in certain works endow the show with existential presentness, working as reminders of being, here and now.

Our body is the place where we feel and the means by which we act. In their depictions of the body, these artist’s mind and sentiments are revealed. As viewers, our bodies themselves are played and positioned against the objects we see. The artworks, like mirrors, facilitate ways of seeing ourselves anew.

The Rituals of Chaos

The Bronx Museum of the Arts
July 19, 2012 – January 6, 2013

The Bronx Museum will present The Rituals of Chaos, an exhibition featuring the work of Mexican photojournalist Enrique Metinides, as part of its ongoing Urban Archives series. On view from July 19, 2012 through January 6, 2013, the exhibition will feature more than 25 pieces and will highlight Metinides’ photographic work, known for its stark portrayal of life and crime in Mexico City from the 1940s through the 1990s. In addition to the work of Metinides, the exhibition will present pieces by artists who also capture the pulse of city life: Claudia Andujar, Kader Attia, Alvin Baltrop, Christoph Büchel, Sophie Calle, Carlos Castro, Robin Graubard, Rick Liss, Gordon Matta-Clark, Peter Moore, Peter Dean Rickards, and Jamel Shabazz.

The artists featured in the exhibition share an engagement with the urban landscape: some embrace rituals as a part of their practice, while others employ documentary strategies or appropriation techniques to frame the rituals they witness. The selection of photographs and video-based works, some presented for the first time in the United States, reveals how the camera affords artists a combination of speed, chance, control, and realism perfect for capturing the human experience in the metropolis.

“Metinides’ work is evocative of the universal urban experience—whether in Mexico City or here in the Bronx,” said Holly Block, Director of The Bronx Museum of the Arts. “We are excited to exhibit recently acquired works by this important photographer, together with artists who have been inspired by the Bronx, like Gordon Matta-Clark and Sophie Calle, as well as others.”

Enrique Metinides was born in 1934 in Mexico City, where he currently lives and works. Known as “El Niño” (the kid), he learned his craft as a child by befriending police officers and firefighters and apprenticing under La Prensa’s lead crime photographer, a position he went on to hold from 1962 to 1997. His deep involvement with the Red Cross – which began at age fifteen when he joined as a volunteer and continued when he became a certified rescuer – allowed him unprecedented access to ambulances and prompt arrival at the scenes of accidents. Metinides has produced thousands of iconic images that document the accidents, tragedies, and tensions of a culture and country in flux and has become Mexico’s preeminent practitioner of nota roja photojournalism.

The exhibition includes vintage works, black and white, and color photographs by Metinides that display a balance between instinct and technique, without the element of gore often associated with tabloid photography. His photographs are meditations on death and loss, symbols of his admiration for the work performed by Red Cross rescue workers and firefighters, and empathy-filled images that reveal the human tendency of voyeurism. Influenced by Hollywood gangster films and the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, his pictures are executed with narrative undercurrents that resemble film stills. Also notable is his inclusion of what he calls mirones, spectators surrounding the scene of a crime or an accident, whose presence is a reflection on the viewers of the eventual photograph. Metinides has received numerous recognitions for his contributions to the Red Cross and to the field of photojournalism. His work has been widely exhibited in Mexico and internationally.

The inclusion of works by other artists contextualizes Metinides’ photography within the landscape of contemporary art and highlights the continuing relevance of his work. Several of the other featured artists in Rituals of Chaos also work as photojournalists, suggesting that art and journalism are two sides of the same activity: the production and distribution of images and information. Robin Graubard’s installation of photographs, taken between 1984 and 2006, evokes themes of subculture, violence, and displacement through its juxtaposition of images depicting crime scenes, the mafia, and squatters, intermingled with concert-goers and bird cages. In Rua Direita (1970) Claudia Andujar records the frazzled look of walkers-by who look directly into her lens. For his 2011 video Collages, Kader Attia visited the Hijras community in Mumbai with transsexual activist and journalist Hélène Azera. His video interweaves this experience with the life story of Algerian transsexual Pascale Ourbih in order to explore tradition and modernity as viewed from differing cultural backgrounds and ideologies.

Urban Archives: The Rituals of Chaos is organized by guest curator Monica Espinel, an independent curator based in São Paulo.

Photographic Treasures from the Collection of Alfred Stieglitz

Howard Gilman Gallery, Metropolitan Museum of Art
October 13, 2011 – February 26, 2012

Rarely seen masterpieces from Alfred Stieglitz’s personal collection of photography will be presented at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from October 13, 2011, through February 26, 2012, in the exhibition Photographic Treasures from the Collection of Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz was not only a master photographer, but a powerful tastemaker and tireless advocate for photography as a fine art. In the first two decades of the 20th century, Stieglitz introduced the public to the best of artistic photography and modern art through his journal Camera Work (1902-17) and his “Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession” (1905-17), known to insiders simply as “291” for its address on Fifth Avenue. Stieglitz was also his gallery’s best client, supporting the artists he most admired by purchasing their work and consequently building one of the most impressive collections of early 20th-century art, including photography.

Featured in this exhibition are 48 photographs by James Craig Annan, Anne W. Brigman, Alvin Langdon Coburn, F. Holland Day, Adolf de Meyer, Frank Eugene, Gertrude Käsebier, Joseph Keiley, Heinrich Kühn, George Seeley, Edward Steichen, Pierre Troubetzkoy, and Clarence White. All the works are drawn from Stieglitz’s 1933 donation and 1949 bequest to the Metropolitan, which encompassed more than 600 photographs. Together, these photographs—many of which are the actual prints reproduced in the pages of Camera Work and exhibited on the walls of 291—constitute the finest gathering of Photo-Secession works anywhere.

“Pictorialism—as artistic photography was called at the time—has gone in and out of favor during the past century,” explained Malcolm Daniel, Curator in Charge of the Metropolitan’s Department of Photographs. “By 1933, when Stieglitz donated the majority of these photographs, he himself no longer favored the approach that he had championed so passionately a quarter century earlier. But today, as digital photography replaces analog and as scenes staged for the camera have become commonplace, the strategies and techniques of the Pictorialists have a renewed relevance, and the expressiveness and hand- wrought quality that Stieglitz first admired move us once again.” While many of the photographs share an aesthetic affinity with fin-de-siècle Symbolist painting and an exquisite attention to print quality, they represent a wide variety of subjects, from portraiture to nudes, charming still-lifes to brooding landscapes, and domestic idylls to biblical scenes.

Among the most notable portraits in the exhibition are Alvin Langdon Coburn’s image of the Nobel laureate author George Bernard Shaw lost in thought, Edward Steichen’s glamorous portrait of the fashionable socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig, and Gertrude Käsebier’s touching portrait of photographer Clarence White and his family. In each case, a perceptive and sensitive portrayal of the sitter is combined with a masterful use of photographic processes such as platinum, gum bichromate, or carbon prints that purposely distinguished these works from the products of commercial studios.

The Alfred Stieglitz Collection is particularly rich in early work by Edward Steichen, Stieglitz’s protégé and collaborator on Camera Work and the gallery program at 291. Eight works by Steichen are included, most of which are being shown at the Metropolitan for the first time in more than 40 years. In addition to portraits of Mrs. Lydig, Stieglitz’s wife Emmy and daughter Kitty, the Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck, and the model and singer Mercedes de Cordoba, two large painterly landscapes by Steichen are featured: Chestnut Blossoms (1904) and Storm in the Garden of the Gods (1906). Such works were intended as powerful demonstrations that photography could rival the color, scale, and expressiveness of painting.

Perhaps the most surprising photographs in the exhibition are F. Holland Day’s The Entombment and The Seven Words, both from an 1898 series in which the artist took on the role of Christ. In preparation, Day starved himself, let his beard grow long, and imported cloth and a cross from Syria. Even now, when theatrically staged scenes are common practice in contemporary photography, Day’s self-portraits as Christ can be unsettling.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Day’s biblical contrivances is a group of photographs that are every bit as posed but portray an ingratiating vision of idyllic domesticity and youthful feminine grace. Gertrude Käsebier’s Blessed Art Thou among Women (1899), a portrait of Agnes Lee and her daughter Peggy, is an exquisite description of the Victorian ideals of motherhood and femininity, reinforced by the biblical title and a print of the Annunciation on the wall behind the figures. Clarence White’s Ring Toss (1899), a photograph highly reminiscent of William Merritt Chase’s painting of the same subject made three years earlier, and Morning—The Coverlet (1906) reveal a vision nurtured by and dependent on the time-honored customs and values of small-town life.

Photographic Treasures from the Collection of Alfred Stieglitz is organized by Malcolm Daniel, Curator in Charge, assisted by Monica Espinel, both in the Department of Photographs.

Taking Aim

The Bronx Museum of the Arts
June 26 – September 5, 2011

Bronx Museum Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Artist In the Marketplace (Aim)

For three decades, the Bronx Museum of the Arts’ Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) program has helped to demystify the often opaque professional practices of the art world for artists at the beginning of their careers and has introduced the work of these emerging artists to the public. On June 26, the Bronx Museum will open two exhibitions to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this ground-breaking program, Taking AIM and Bronx Calling: The First AIM Biennial on view through September 5, 2011.

Guest curators Marysol Nieves and Mónica Espinel will look at the history of the AIM program alongside many of the key events that have helped shape the field of contemporary art as it has become more complex, decentralized, and global over the past 30 years. Taking AIM will feature materials related to the history of the program, and the centerpiece of the exhibition will be a timeline mural commissioned for the anniversary designed by AIM alumna Amy Pryor.

In conjunction with the 30th anniversary of AIM, the Bronx Museum and Fordham University Press will publish Taking AIM! The Business of Being an Artist Today, a detailed guide with information and tools to help emerging artists develop strategies for building and sustaining successful careers.

“AIM was launched 30 years ago to give participants in the program real-world experience on how to survive as a professional artist, the type of training you don’t get in art school,” said Bronx Museum Director Holly Block. “The idea behind AIM is to empower artists, asking them what they want to learn about the profession, helping them network and build a sense of community, and exposing their work to new audiences. We believe that artists play a critical role in exploring the issues and ideas of our time and supporting emerging artists is part of the core mission of the Bronx Museum.”

AIM is structured as a “collaborative residency” in which participants work directly with established artists, collectors, art critics, curators, dealers, lawyers, and other art world professionals. AIM sessions provide information, instruction, and professional guidance by addressing areas of practical concern to artists, among them curatorial practice, copyright law, exhibition and public art opportunities, gallery representation, grant writing, income taxes, and marketing. The 13-week seminar is offered annually in two sessions, each with 36 artists, and culminating with an exhibition of the participants’ work. Among past participants in the AIM program are Glenn Ligon—who was one of the early AIM artists and whose work was first exhibited at the Bronx Museum—and Polly Apfelbaum, Rina Banerjee, Amy Cutler, Anton Vidokle, and Phoebe Washburn.

In 2009, an International Artist Residency was added to the AIM program. In the last two years, eight international artists have participated in the AIM sessions, including Raymond Romero (Venezuela, 2008), Andre Komatsu (Brazil, 2009), Billie Zangewa (South Africa, 2009), Dulce Gomez (Venezuela, 2009), Magdi Mostafa and Mahmud Kahled (Egypt, 2010), and Samba Seydi and Ibrahima Niang (Senegal, 2011).

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

Founded in 1971, the Bronx Museum of the Arts is a contemporary art museum that connects diverse audiences to the urban experience through its permanent collection, special exhibitions, and education programs. Reflecting the borough’s dynamic communities, the Museum is the crossroad where artists, local residents, and national and international visitors meet. The Museum’s home on the Grand Concourse is a distinctive contemporary landmark designed by the internationally-renowned firm Arquitectonica.

To get to the Museum, visitors can take the B or D train to the 167 Street/Grand Concourse Station stop and walk south along the Grand Concourse two blocks. Please note: D trains do not stop during rush hour peak times (from 6:15 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. on Manhattan-bound trains, and from 4:00 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Bronx-bound trains). Visitors can also reach the Museum via the 4 train to 161 Street/Yankee Stadium. At the exit, walk east three blocks to Grand Concourse and north four blocks along Grand Concourse. For more information please visit www.bronxmuseum.org.