Two Cuban artists fly high in Wynwood

At Wynwood's Pan American Art Projects, turbo-charged solo shows by contemporary Cuban artists Gustavo Acosta and Carlos González offer intriguing, disparate takes on aerial acrobatics.

Acosta's "The Great Systems" features a large-scale suite of monochrome paintings providing a bird's-eye view of his native Havana.

González's monumental stainless-steel sculptures are the subject of "Flights of Fancy," a soaring exhibit evoking the birth of mechanical flight and organic elements such as seeds and flowers that are carried on natural air currents across vast landscapes.

Gustavo Acosta's Trompe L'oeil
Courtesy of Pan American Art Projects, Miami
Gustavo Acosta's Trompe L'oeil

Details

"The Great Systems" and "Flights of Fancy": Through October 3. Pan American Art Projects, 2450 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-573-2400; panamericanart.com. Tuesday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday noon to 5:30 p.m.

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Acosta creates atmospheric imagery of crumbling Havana neighborhoods as if viewed from above through Night Vision goggles. Pallid green hues give the impression his cityscapes are varnished with the noxious fumes of pollution. The swampy tones provoke a miasma of queasiness underlaid with loss and lingering sadness. Yet remarkably, Acosta's stunning paintings navigate the gloom and fragmented memory with white-knuckle aplomb.

In a sprawling 5-by-11-foot canvas, from which Acosta's exhibit takes its title, an expansive aerial view of Cuba's capital city appears as a dense fusion of apartment blocks spewing toxic plumes of ashen green smoke from dozens of chimneys, casting the city in an eerie, almost Dickensian veneer.

Havana's famed Malecón takes center stage in another huge painting, The Big Splash, in which the seawall, a vibrant gathering place, is buffeted relentlessly by the ocean's powerful surge. One can almost hear the metronome of crashing waves as the whitecaps rise and fall, sending showers of pearlescent spume and jade mist over the rocky embankment. The fury of the waves is both a dire reminder of nature's wrathfulness and the danger Cubans face when fleeing on makeshift rafts in search of freedom.

The artist's birthplace is also the subject of The Last Chance, in which Acosta portrays an anonymous Havana street from a schizzy angle that addles the peepers. From an overhead, jumbled, diagonal view, dilapidated buildings are mottled with blotches of Mercurochrome red, giving them a gangrenous patina.

In The Glass Shield, Acosta shifts his gun sights to what looks like a train station, whose building's lofty dome is shown from an interior, worm's-eye view. Diffuse light filters through a steel skein of black beams that seems to ensnare the green sky in an inky spider web.

Also, in the project room, catch Acosta's nifty watercolor-on-paper series, Secret Codes, in which he uses twilight-purple backgrounds behind glittery city lights, rendered as if captured through the haze of a red-eye flight. These legal-pad-size gems oscillate with the energy of teeming metropolises and, like an unexpected pocket of turbulence, nearly make one's belly lurch.

Carlos González's "Flights of Fancy" heightens the aerial circus with a striking new group of nature-inspired pieces that share the ether with flying mechanical devices.

Low Flight, a dynamic, burnished stainless-steel piece, is reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci's "airscrew," the precursor to the helicopter, which the Renaissance master created in the 1500s using reeds, linen, and wire.

González uncannily displays his powers of observation and fertile imagination in works such as the elegant Glider, echoing another of da Vinci's inventions known as the "ornithopter." The flying machine was inspired by winged creatures such as the bat and, not unlike this angular sculpture, possessed pointy wings commonly associated with the creature. González's multi-winged version of the flying machine is attached to a crescent-shaped metal membrane resting on spindly legs and looking a bit like a mutant dragonfly.

Perhaps his most arresting piece on display is Flights of Fancy, for which the show is titled. It's a sleek, polished stainless-steel, rubber, and leather opus that the legendary Greek architect Daedalus might have crafted for his son Icarus. Featuring a harness with five sets of oar-shaped wings that dangle from the rafters on chains, the piece poetically refracts the gallery lights, drenching the wall behind it in a subtle dance of shadows that bring to mind a bird's flapping wings.

A huge sculpture with a pronounced organic vibe, Finding Light looks like a giant silvery seedpod or a gleaming dandelion puff ready to catch the wind and spin heavenward in search of a fresh patch of earth.

Another of González's works likewise makes light of the human obsession with engaging in mechanical flight by mimicking nature. His wittily titled Musca Non Capit Aquila is a play on an ancient Latin proverb expressing that the superior man doesn't squander his time with trifles. The expansive piece, which swallows a gallery wall, depicts a squadron of metal flies whose wings flutter when they catch air. Dangling from hooks, the creatures form a classic V pattern that suggests migrating geese or RAF Spitfires attacking an enemy.

Regardless of the images their works evoke, these artists have come together in seamless fashion. At Pan American Art Projects, Acosta and González accomplish an immaculate connection that's an eye-opener of the first order.

 
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