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Manny Prieres has waited for the opening of this year's arts season for a long, long time. Three years to be exact. For the Miami artist, whose highly anticipated solo show "What We Do Is Secret," on view at the Spinello Gallery in the Design District, it's been a never-ending journey of fits and starts. "I was supposed to have a solo show at Rocket Projects in the fall of 2006," the 36-year-old rues. When the gallery folded before his opening, a dejected Prieres returned to his studio.
He later got the green light for an exhibit at Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts for October last year, only to lose his studio space during a personal crisis that torpedoed his show.
He found another space and returned to his work with an unbridled determination that is evident at Spinello. "I have been creating these drawings for over a year now," Prieres says. "They reflect personal issues of longing and family recollections that I have reinterpreted through my Cuban heritage and experiences of growing up here in Miami."
At the gallery, several large-scale graphite and watercolor works on paper are remarkable for their impeccable detail and ritualistic overtones.
Mother, a life-size homage to Cuba's patron saint, la Caridad del Cobre, depicts the virgin wearing a sumptuous gown as a gold and red velvet crown floats inches above her head. The saint bears the visage of Prieres's sister, and a pair of machetes cross over her chest.
Another work, titled 1963, was inspired by a story the artist recently heard from his father. "My dad had never told me before, but he showed me a scar and said he had been shot in Cuba when he was forced to work in the sugar cane field but refused," Prieres says. The artist drew a pair of crossed cane stalks over ornate halos, typically found on religious statues, to commemorate the long-ago event.
Another suite of small graphite-on-paper works, titled Remnants, depicts scissors and knives wrapped in human hair that exude an eerie, totemic vibe. "Machetes and knives interest me because they are tools that peasants used in their daily lives during harvest time but which they also used in the war against Spain," Prieres observes. "Also, my parents come from a generation that rarely throws things away. Growing up, my dad always had machetes and axes in his tool shed that were held together with tape."
The clash of cultures, the inexorable tides of loss, hybrid histories and myth, plus Prieres's cranium-cleaving technical skills mark this long-simmering show as one not to be missed. "Every collision leaves a trace behind — debris, a trail of residue that marks the site where violence took place," Prieres explains. At the Spinello Gallery, he hacks his point home right between the eyes.
Italy's Natalie Silva opens her solo show "Girls with Guns" this Saturday at Wynwood's Dot Fiftyone Gallery with 14 large paintings inspired by '60s and '70s cinema molls. "Silva believes that guns don't kill people, people do," says the gallery's codirector, Isaac Perelman. "A lot of those movies reflected the struggles and revolution that women in that period underwent in their quest to obtain equal rights and freedom."
With tongue-in-cheek titles such as The Day We Killed Them All and Killer Looks, Silva's pop-influenced paintings explode with color and depict solitary women leveling pistols or rifles and raking spectators with gunfire.
Silva uses acrylic and fluorescent paint on raw canvas to enhance her work's edgy veneer and achieve a glow-in-the-dark effect. She tinkers with symbolism and humor in paintings such as Damn Flies, in which a fetching brunette sporting an eyepatch blows an F-14 fighter jet out of the sky.
She succeeds with aplomb at balancing desirable, glamorous vixens and menacing weapons. In Kitten, a painting recently exhibited in a summer group show at London's Royal Academy of the Arts, a chestnut-haired minx cocks her Saturday-night special with a Sarah Palin-esque wink and a nod at the viewer.
Another work, titled Sandra, depicts a woman who looks like the Angelina Jolie assassin from Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The vamp, who boasts visible breast implants, glares sullenly into space while holding a semiautomatic pistol in each hand as if prepared to unleash unrepentant mayhem on anyone dumb enough to get in her way.
Despite Silva's bubblegum palette choices and flatly rendered femme fatales, there is an innate psychological tension percolating under her images that keeps the paintings from feeling like the artist is firing one-note blanks.
"The contradiction and irony present in these pieces reflect the power struggle between the perception and prejudice we have toward the symbolism of weapons and the softness and supposed delicacy of women," Perelman says.
Also opening this Saturday during the first Wynwood arts crawl of the season is an exhibit of photographer Pablo Cabado's recent works at the Dina Mitrani Gallery.
One of the Argentine shutterbug's recent projects, 37°57'35 S 57°34'49 W, documents a mysterious abandoned amusement park inhabited by ruined rides and the echoes of a fading culture.
Cabado has tooled around the countryside surrounding Buenos Aires in his 1971 Ford Falcon jalopy, snapping pictures with a large-format camera. One of his more striking images captures a couple of pigs gorging themselves on overgrown weeds near the foot of a rotting roller coaster.
Other images include an empty Olympic-size swimming pool cluttered with garbage, and a children's whirling teacup amusement ride that has collapsed on itself and is slowly being claimed by wild vines and shrubbery.
"Pablo Cabado's photography has a way of really going deep into his subject matter," Mitrani says. "He gives us in-depth historical or cultural information with a sensitive eye for texture, color, and tones that really lure you in. His work is serious and beautiful all at once."