For her piece, Valella tore page 47 from some of her mother's books to cover a wall. Nineteen forty-seven was the year her mother married and her lucky number, the artist explains.

She also had one of her mother's neighbors climb a boom crane and shoot bird's-eye-view pictures of her mother's home, which she has integrated into her collage. "I also underlined random passages from the book pages and was surprised to discover a narrative emerging as the piece evolved," Valella notes.

Throughout the rabbit warren of small project rooms and halls in the building, old-fangled overhead projectors beam theoretical mumbo jumbo by French philosophers onto walls. It's an intellectual nod to the deconstruction of text. But it all seems overplayed.

Angela's Archive (2009), by Angela Valella
Angela's Archive (2009), by Angela Valella

Details

"Imperfect Archives": Through October 30. 801 Projects, 801 SW Third Ave., Miami; 305-266-6155. Weekdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment. Exhibit closes with a book sale October 30.

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More interesting, though, are photographs by Eugenia Vargas Pereira, who lost her 100-year-old mother earlier this year while rushing home to Chile to be at her side. In images saturated with gorgeous crimson and azure hues, Vargas Pereira swims in a back-yard pool while holding a rare gilded edition of Dante's Inferno. The book came from the collection of Valella's mom.

Equally compelling is an untitled work by Liz Cerejido, who for many years has documented her 77-year-old mother Helida's descent into the ravages of Alzheimer's. For her take on the imperfect archive, Cerejido covered a wall in slate gray and painted phrases in chalk over it, adding a sound element with a recording of her mother's voice.

"I had my mother read words to me from flash cards I gave her before she stopped speaking two years ago. Mom is now in the final stages of her disease," Cerejido informs. "The phrases on the wall are random words I used to describe the experiences of an imaginary Cuban exile family that had very different lives than we did, but sadly that wasn't the case," the artist explains. "Instead, the words you hear in the sound element of the installation refer to how my mother lived more an existence like Penelope waiting faithfully for the return of Ulysses, or in our case, my father, who never made it here from Cuba to join us in the United States."

Although some of the works convey a deep sense of sorrow or nostalgia, none veers to the maudlin or morbid, which enhances the rhythm of the show.

Odalis Valdivieso adds some welcome humor with her sound piece, The Black Bean Audio Archive. The 30-something Venezuelan artist has worked on it for the past 11 years, collecting oral recipes of Miami's favorite legume from people across town.

"So far, I have 126 different recipes from people like my grandmother, maids, workmates, and other folks I have encountered through the years," the youngest participant boasts.

"To me, black beans are a signature dish that links Hispanics, Afro-Americans, and almost every culture in our city," she says. "Just this last week, I ate a totally new version that included malanga with the beans. They were pretty hearty and tasty."

And not unlike the contrasting recipes for frijoles negros, this exhibit, with its many disparate approaches, more than lives up to its name.

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