Exiles in Never-Never Land

Tales of displacement when there's no place like home

José Iraola, who splits time between Miami and New York, concentrates on achieving the perfect composition in a single frame in his "Fact" series of images, where parked cars on desolate streets become both seductive abstractions and commentaries on anonymity.

One digital work from another series titled "Fiction," examining violence-fueled stabs for ratings on television, seems lifted straight off the boob tube and might be a worked-over scene from a Jerry Springer gab-and-smackfest where an unruly guest gets the business from bouncers.

Consuelo Castañeda's large-format, laminated digital prints mounted on industrial light boxes are collectively titled "City" and attempt to underscore parallels between diverse American cities. They appear to be the most tired images in the show. The artist, who also resides in the Big Orange and Big Apple, has strung up her work nearly at ceiling level and wrapped it around a corner wall, achieving somewhat of a billboard effect where the neon lights of one city blur into the next.

Toc Fetch's V6.3 Page 24. River Talks to the Dead
Toc Fetch's V6.3 Page 24. River Talks to the Dead

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Through January 15.
Bettcher Gallery, 5582 NE 4th Ct, Miami; 305-758-7556.

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The antiseptic snapshots of Miami, Las Vegas, and New York are redundantly familiar examples of Anywhere USA and seem to lack the conceptual bite of Castañeda's previous work. Like drugstore postcards hymning the banality of urban street corners, the images quickly fade as if fleetingly glanced from a speeding car and fail to occupy a lasting space beyond the amplified ordinary.

The work of Alexandre Arrechea, the youngest of the group and one of the founders of Cuba's edgy collaborative Los Carpinteros, is arguably the most provocative and relevant in the show. It also marks his first public foray into the local art arena. Arrechea, who parted company with his former conceptual team in 2003, has ensconced himself in Madrid, where he has been experimenting in a dizzying array of media while exploring his trademark architectural subjects.

In five large digital works from his series "Architectural Elements," the artist re-creates a stately colonnaded edifice, using images of his body, bricks, and the lens of a surveillance camera in a remarkable composition reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia home and plantation, Monticello.

Arrechea has been mining themes of government control in his work and deploys the cameras as another staple of architecture in the modern security state. The arresting piece features a zoom-in closeup of the surveillance camera's lens in what might be described as the building's portico.

The four flanking digital panels depict the shirtless dark-skinned artist holding a towering stack of large white bricks in front of him, occluding his face and giving the impression of the imposing columns in Washington's corridors of power. Together, the images seem to allude to the unprecedented measures government has taken in safeguarding our nation post 9/11 and the personal price exacted for freedom in an America at war.

Also premiering at Alonso Art is Arrechea's The Garden of Mistrust, which packs a formidable wallop and projects the sobering reality that in our current political climate, Big Brother's protection reaches into most facets of contemporary life. The powerful piece consists of a soaring metal tree with bushels of motion-triggered surveillance cameras recording one's every move from its branches.

The work — Arrechea's riff on fear as a strategy of unlimited power and its crippling effect as an obedience tool — left me mulling over our old-school patriots' vision of a kinder, gentler America, where a proverbial liberty garden alluded to an end-of-world conflict.

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