All Over the Plate

Something for every taste, from world-beat canvas to small portraits to tongue-licking china

Combine sinuous DNA-like patterns, a mandala chart, geodesic marks, disco glitter, third-eye cut-ups, Arabic calligraphy, and kabbalah clues and you get a pretty disparate global vision. But if it's Gean Moreno doing the combining, it seems to make sense. His "Nannies, Narcos, Suicide Girl Six, and Makbara's Miraculous Ice Palace Meltdown" at Kevin Bruk Gallery is the work of a smart critic having fun with his own mind trances. Don't bother too much with the title, which works to cipher off the neophyte while guiding the artist's musing.

Moreno's pieces are carefully elaborated, with bits of collage, pigment, and drawing aimed at some center, which need not become the axis of the canvas. They are a hallucinogenic motion of color, with greens, blues, and yellows that swirl into a sort of global ambient "sound" where Cornershop meets Ofra Haza meets Moby.

When I look at Moreno's drawings, I see the artist doodling as his mind takes over. After so much thinking, Moreno's intellect needs to fall in love and let his pulse follow. I'm glad, though, that his is ultimately a mind that feels.

Portraits of un-motion (left to right, top to bottom): Doing Nothing; Really Not Doing Nothing; Nothing at All; Doing Nothing But Hot
Portraits of un-motion (left to right, top to bottom): Doing Nothing; Really Not Doing Nothing; Nothing at All; Doing Nothing But Hot

Details

"Nannies, Narcos, Suicide Girl Six, and Makbara's Miraculous Ice Palace Meltdown" and "Under the Sun"
By Gean Moreno and Adam Ross through June 15 at the Kevin Bruk Gallery, 3900 NE 1st Ave; 305-576-2000

"4 Painters II"
By Rebecca Guarda, Mary Malm, Claudia Scalise, and Carolina Salazar, through May 4 at the Dorsch Gallery, 151 NW 24th St; 305-576-1278

"Tastes and Tongues: 13 Cities"
By Antoni Miralda through May 31 at Centro Cultural EspaŮol, 800 Douglas Rd, Coral Gables; 305-448-9677

Adam Ross is an artist from Los Angeles with a cool sense for design. His show "Under the Sun," also at the Bruk gallery, brings out the never-ending dichotomy between technology and humanity. You see neat landscapes minimally interspersed with arches and elongated vertical and horizontal structures against the bluest of skies. Ross's execution is so flawless that it seems computer-generated.

Against this landscape of deceptive placidity, Ross unveils an ominous semblance of artificiality by displaying a range of moods -- from peaceful to gloomy -- as increasing gestures of self-randomness, expressed by coarse color dabs. Ross may be pointing to the gap between reason and artifice. Or in 21st-century parlance: between virtuality and reality. That said, Ross doesn't come across as a technology basher -- he's merely describing a contemporary predicament.

At nearby Dorsch Gallery, "4 Painters II" is well worth checking out (it's in the back room; the front room is now home to big new canvases from Carlos de Villasante), showcasing the works of Rebecca Guarda, Mary Malm, Claudia Scalise, and Carolina Salazar. The small-painting portraits work well together (though the temperature in the back room can be oppressive). Among the fine strokes of these artists, I was particularly taken by Carolina Salazar's ten-painting series. The pieces depict female poses in various inconspicuous situations. After reading the works' titles -- Doing Nothing, Still Doing Nothing, Really Not Doing Nothing, Nothing at All, et cetera -- you know for sure that indeed not much is going on; that's Salazar's point. She's very good at exploring the gamut of distinctive states of female solitude, idleness, and anomie, as if each pose embodies a little variation in an overall theme that is, despite the solitude, not without some humor.

Over in the Gables, "Tastes and Tongues: 13 Cities" by Spanish artist Antoni Miralda is at the Centro Cultural Español, or Center for Spanish Culture. "Tastes and Tongues" is Miralda's own sort of conceptualist Michelin Guide, documenting cultural experiences related to gastronomy throughout Latin America and Spain.

The exhibit is part of a bigger project: "City Plates," which started in 1997 at the Istanbul Biennale and was extended to the Hanover Expo 2000. The installation consists of thirteen sketches on thick plastic sheets corresponding to different important cities. Inside a circle we see a drawing of a tongue and in it a little map corresponding to each metropolis. Around the plate's borders, Miralda handwrites a multifarious record of local recipes, popular sayings, tales, historical allusions, travel tips, and distinctive illustrations particular to each place.

In another area, next to a black-painted room where, on opening night, people felt free to draw their own ideas on the wall, one can find the actual dining plates, around nine inches in diameter, set on colorful mats on a round table. This table reveals an egalitarian political bent, which according to the director of the center, Guillermo Basso, is indeed Miralda's intent, fitting in with his impartial view of the relationship between Spain and her Latin American ex-colonies. It also reflects the center's mission in Miami, one of the cities getting a tongue treatment in the show.

Three catalogues of Miralda's work are also at the center -- open them up and find out more about this unique artist who has explored food as an art theme for almost 40 years throughout many of America's and Europe's art centers. In the 1960s Miralda -- a sculptor by training -- delved into conceptual ideas of proto-installation art. Some of his polished sculptural work from that era anticipates postmodern artists like Jeff Koons, whereas his Coca-Cola Polenta of the mid-1970s in Venice seems, in retrospect, more authentic, truer to the concept of installation, than some of the much-more-publicized works of Italian wunderkind Maurizio Cattelan.

Some of Miralda's public food installations literally involve a huge number of people in different capacities, which puts him in a league with other contemporary artists whose work requires a great deal of city logistics and ritual. In a sense Miralda is to food what Christo is to wrapping. (Here he and his partner Montse Guillen opened up Big Fish Mayaimi restaurant on the river, which showcased some of his large sculpture -- they later sold it, and now his large shoe sits outside Guillen's café The Meeting Point in the Design District.)

In a broader context Miralda's obsession with food represents the power of human nurturing in all its manifestations, a cultural and political message for human integration and dignity.

 
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