Just What Miami Needs -- Another Huge Ego

Is it art or the monomaniacal meanderings of a total poseur?

If peer acclaim can be a hallmark for an emerging artist's success, it does not surprise that many of his colleagues referenced in the show are lining up to trade work with an artist equally at play between the gaze and the pose.

At Casas Riegner Gallery, Miguel Angel Rojas's "Why Must We Meet Like This?" seems all about the gaze and the primacy of seeing in desire. Confronting his installation Paquita Buys an Ice Cream Cone reminded me of the words of a Coral Gables gallerist who, when reviewing the work of a young female artist aspiring to enter his stable, remarked, "The eyes ... they never grow old."

Wynd's New York, November 2003
Wynd's New York, November 2003

Rojas, a pioneer of Latin American conceptual art, utilizes as the formal iconographical structure for this work voyeuristic documentation of his coming of age as a homosexual in the stifling climate of his predominantly Catholic native Colombia.

In 1979 he planted a hidden camera in the bathroom stall of a decaying Bogotá theater he frequented, like many homosexuals at the time, seeking fleeting erotic encounters with attractive strangers.

The resulting imagery of those transitory encounters have germinated over a dozen successive works of art and are deeply embedded in the myth of Paquita. Working from minimal reductions of the photographic negatives he took 25 years earlier at the Mogador Theater, Rojas installs thousands of cornea-sized cutouts straight onto the gallery walls in a harrowing narrative reflecting the darker consequences of the erotic assignations of his youth.

Paquita's tale, presented as a pointillist cartoon, takes the metaphorical child heroine on a journey of desire fraught with unexpected dangers, culminating in a sickbed scene where she lies rigid and contaminated from the ice cream cone she has ingested.

The genesis of Paquita's fate stems from the artist's loss of many of his closest friends to the AIDS virus and resonates metaphorically in Rojas's choice of an ice cream cone as the little girl's twin axis of pain and pleasure. Looking at the work, delving into its source material evokes a sense of unease, of libidinal identification of fractured perception and the frail negotiation of becoming what we want.

Why I Think I Am So Fucking Special: Its All About Me
By Robert Wyndam Bucknell through June 6 at OBJEX Artspace, 203 NW 36th St; 305-573-4400.

Why Must We Meet Like This?
By Miguel Angel Rojas through June 19 at Casas Riegner Gallery, 25 NE 39th St; 305-573-8242.

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