There are some things that are worth seeing, or hearing, or tasting, and you are probably better for it. Then there are those few things that cannot be missed, and you are definitely better for it. One of those is Daniel Senise's "Recent Works" at Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts. Senise, a Brazilian living in New York, is an artist to contend with. After seeing his paintings, you walk away feeling as though you've been given a fine moment of contemplation, an experience that matters.These canvases have a surprisingly archaic feel due to their monochromatic hue and rich frescolike texture. The scenes are unpopulated, no furniture. One may be tempted to compare this barrenness with other painters' desolate visions, but that's not the way to go. Too much in these works is vested in seeking geometric purity, in finding a rectangular quality, traversed by windows and doors. Senise's works contain plenty of light -- and space. And space contains time: That's enough.
I discovered later that Senise appropriates these "interiors" from old and modern masters, something not apparent in the works themselves. This conceptual delight is part of Senise's game, as he refers to the painters' names in some of the titles. But there's something else, besides space and intellectual discourse, in Senise's art. Look at how much the artist invests in his mauve, gray, and sepia surfaces, following an almost heroic no-brush thesis. On the floor of his studio, Senise carefully cuts and glues long strips of canvas, adds monochromatic acrylic pigments, and then proceeds to attach them longitudinally onto wooden panels. The effect is of a lattice of bands arranged perpendicularly to the painting, with a robust, worn-out feel to it. Then as you stare at, and through, this traumatized mesh, you'll get lost in the man-made emptiness.
"Proyecta," a show curated by Marcelo Leslabay, is the most recent exhibit at the increasingly active Centro Cultural Español. The display brings together a number of contemporary Spanish graphic, industrial, and fashion designers for an initiative very similar to that of other European efforts to unify national enterprises into a more global image. In a sense "Proyecta" signals Spain's arrival at the upper echelon in the design world.With close to $1.5 billion in services expenditures, Spain has become the fourth-largest design power in Europe, after England, Germany, and France. The Spanish emergence on the design stage is similar to the Italian boom during the 1950s, thanks to the amazing mobilization of all things design in Barcelona since 1992 -- still an example for any city in Europe today and the model for the more recent rise of Madrid.
Artists such as Isidro Ferrer, Ipsum Planet, Niall O'Flynn, Andreu Balius, and Miriam Ocariz, among others, are the new generation with a vocabulary fully formed in Spanish. Ferrer works with a cool Miró-like iconography to produce direct and catchy images, which also incorporate Mediterranean traditions, an indication of the social and political repositioning of Catalonia.
I was more impressed with the graphic and fashion design than with the industrial design, though these days that happens to be the case in most places. And in particular I favored Niall O'Flynn's Tensa Lamp to his Rascal chair, which seems a little uncomfortable for something as flatly ergonomic as an office chair. On the other hand, O'Flynn's Balanza, a birch slablike rocking chair with sensual curving, is a witty piece.
Neo 2 is a hip publication by Ipsum Planet, a collective of graphic and advertising designers from Madrid. Though it's a bit on the sensationalist side, I have to concur with Neo 2's editorial policy favoring artificiality and the ultracontemporary as a way of expressing Madrid's ever-changing times. Neo 2's layout, photos, design, and typeface are as good as any of the top English or Italian magazines.
Miriam Ocariz, from Bilbao, makes graphic-design clothing. Her series "Perlas" (Pearls) on black fabrics such as wool, rayon, and polyester creates object-illusions on attire similar to Nicola Constantino's skin costumes. Ocariz's products are conceptual and chic.
Alberto Martínez and Álvaro Rey build interactive designs, some of which have been sponsored by prestigious entities such as the Royal College of Arts in Britain and Phillips. For this pair of young creators, society is still behind technology. So their interface bridges the gap between scientists and consumers. Don't miss Arrow Project, where the mouse's cursor is literally taken out of the monitor to interact with objects on your desk, thanks to a mix of tools that involve PC, camera, and laser technology.
Reflecting on design, special mention must go to Mónica Tárrega, a young Spanish architect in charge of the interior renovation, who has given the center's space itself a face-lift. In addition to conveying a more cohesive image for the center's continuous and diverse use, Tárrega worked with the site to display an up-to-date touch, one that exposes "unfinished" textures on columns and ceiling to achieve a bolder, more socially involved atmosphere for Spain's proxy in Latin American Miami. The place looks open, transparent, and sympathetic. Wait for those glass bookcases facing the inner patio to be put in and, designwise, the Spanish Cultural Center may become one of the coolest places to visit in Miami.
What other photographer besides Joseph Tamargo has three simultaneous exhibits all over Miami? Answer: none. His works can be viewed at the downtown public library, and at Books and Books in Coral Gables there's "Botella Ron, Tabaco a Mano," which documents Tamargo's recent four-day trip to Havana.I take pleasure in the fact that Tamargo portrays a different Havana than the stereotyped decaying city, though his trip was too quick to really gather substantial stuff. See this show keeping in mind two of Tamargo's ongoing motifs: the cemetery and the zoo -- themes you can also ponder from the Chilean perspective at ArtCenter/South Florida's "Misty Wanderings and Hidden Ways." An associate professor of photography at Miami-Dade Community College at the Wolfson Campus, Tamargo is a two-time recipient of a Fulbright scholarship to Chile. These ten pictures radiate light, color, and a particular human flavor that reflect the location.
We see people in the middle of their daily activities: a girl absorbed in watching a crocodile at the zoo, an Old Havana façade, a simple view of a cemetery, a black man giving food to an old man, or a couple kissing alongside a line of Russian Lada cars, next to La Cabaña fortress. Tamargo's photos are not posed, and are hit-or-miss. While other artists may look for esoteric integrity, Tamargo prefers to seek spontaneous truths by capturing the simplicity of everyday life in front of our eyes. His photos are about places, colors, and humanity. With that understanding, it's then you can enjoy the fruits of his dedication to images.
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