By Ciara LaVelle
By Jose D. Duran
By Kat Bein
By Juan Barquin
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By George Martinez
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Hector Madera's stark collages on view at Edge Zones offer a discordant commentary on many artists' unease with the brutal economy. His Recession Series, featuring works titled Unhappiness makes us creative and The American dream might be a nightmare, is cobbled from old bills and masking tape; the titles are scrawled boldly as strident protests.
The Puerto Rican artist's largest work on display stitches together his car rental receipts, bank statements, hospital bills, sundry sales slips, and assorted announcements for gallery shows. It suggests that in the absence of a budget for canvas, Madera has chosen to use the contents of his mailbox to vent his creative angst. The bare-bones piece, titled Have in mind that we all fall behind from time to time, is a grim reminder that luxury items such as artworks are far from the average consumer's mind in these harsh times.
The searing works are part of "Painting," a group show at the Wynwood nonprofit in which some of the participants approach the medium in nontraditional ways. Smartly curated, the show offers a mixed bag of styles through the work of Kyle Barnette, David Brieske, Paloma Ferreyros, Daniel Fiorda, Robert Huff, François Ilnseher, Jay Oré, Mark Osterman, Raul Perdomo, and Claudia Scalise.
Several of the artists mine the notion of space travel, our role in the universe, and the transitory nature of existence.
Raul Perdomo's medium-scale oil-and-enamel-on-canvas paintings, in a complex abstract style, question the origins of mass in the universe. His In Search of the God-Particle I is rendered with a fleshy pink background covered in serpentine skeins of pastel colors and arabesque splotches that hint at submolecular forms or antique brocades.
Perdomo combines elements of drawing, cartography, and abstract painting with appropriated imagery from the Large Hadron Collider, the Hubble Space Telescope, and even electron microscopes and MRI scanners. He creates an atmospheric overlay of tension hinting at the Higgs boson — the massive scalar planetary particle predicted to exist but as yet unseen. It's as if he's unraveling the mysteries of the universe.
Through a pair of unearthly paintings of UFOs, Miami's Jay Oré investigates the question of whether we are alone in the universe. In one of them, the flashing bright lights of several unseen spacecraft leach from a gloomy dead-of-night background. It's almost reminiscent of an alien abduction.
Another work, In the beginning, depicts what appears to be a dissolving spaceship in a pulsing swirl of glowing stardust, as if the vehicle is in the process of shifting to warp speed.
Kyle Barnette riffs on space travel from the perspective of NASA's historical moon landing. His large, rib-tickling Tidal Wave shows a team of frogmen on an inflatable Zodiac attempting to retrieve the Apollo 11 space crew as the capsule bobs in the ocean after re-entry. While the olive green rubber-suited men struggle to help the astronauts under a dark, menacing sky, a tsunami in the distance rages toward them.
Barnette seems to convey a sense that despite humankind's loftiest aspirations and achievements, we as a species remain humbled when confronted by the ferocity of nature.
Across from it, Mark Osterman's arresting All or Nothing buffets the spectator with headwind bluster. In the large acrylic-on-canvas piece, a man wearing a gas mask rides a bicycle on a collision course with the viewer. The artist applied the painting's acid yellow, moss green, and toxic pink tones using a palette knife to create surface texture, giving the impression that his ghostly subject is pedaling for his life under a noxious cloud of mustard gas.
Not all the works on display steer toward the esoteric. Claudia Scalise traffics in the mundane, creating tiny gem-like paintings referencing the simple rewards of domesticity. Near the gallery's entrance, a small cluster of paintings titled Like a Doll's House features a handful of individual palm-size pieces in which she has meticulously rendered a stove, couch, dinner table, armchair, bed, and other accouterments of a Lilliputian parlor. Next to them she has also painted a toy-like version of her dream house.
Robert Huff and Daniel Fiorda, best recognized for their sculptural works, stake out strong territory in the exhibit via their recent forays into painting.
Fiorda, whose bristling metal sculptures often reference mutant armaments and airplanes, continues exploring the evolution of warplanes. His striking Blue in Nazca mixed-media painting on wood uses collage, acrylic, enamel, and wax. In it, warplanes buzz over the Nazca Desert, depicted through furiously applied scratches and silvery geometric ribbons reminiscent of the arid Peruvian plains.
Huff's small wood paintings are the shape of a shoe box and convey sculptural qualities overlaid with geometric markings and architectural shapes not unlike the exteriors of looming skyscrapers.
Nearby is the work of Paloma Ferreyros, a young Peruvian artist who adds a sculptural touch to painting by exploring the medium three-dimensionally. Her Translating Shapes is an amalgam of wood and canvas that juts out from the wall like a ship's splintered prow. Its raw, layered geometric shapes are loosely covered with globs of Day-Glo paint.
Likewise, a Play-Doh-hued rainbow trickles over sections of a grid comprising 12 postcard-size raw canvases, hinting at a radiation spill.
"We wanted to create an exhibit exploring a diversity of approaches to contemporary painting in this exhibit," says Charo Oquet, Edge Zones' founder. "Also, in this economy, the only things people seem to be collecting are paintings."
With nary a red dot on the walls, the show might end up a commercial bust, but it drives home the point that the notion of art for art's sake remains nonnegotiable. Amen, sister.