Black Square Gallery's Striking International Show "Matrix/Collective Memory"
For most Wynwood galleries, August's Second Saturday Art Walk brings all the excitement of a Marlins home game. During the sweltering dog days of summer, many larger spaces shutter their doors for vacation while preparing for the upcoming high season. Those who do open for the art crawl often feature hold-over exhibits.
But for some, such as Black Square Gallery director Anna Milashevych, the hottest month of the year is the perfect time to rise above the noise and introduce audiences to exciting new talent.
"Yes, summer is traditionally a slow time for the galleries," says Milashevych, a 26-year-old Ukrainian who opened the gallery in 2010 with partner Ronald Kritzler. "[But] I can say there are still many collectors and tourists coming to Miami... It has become a tradition for Black Square Gallery to present special summer projects to explore a specific subject or media."
Last August, for example, the graduate of Ukraine's National Academy of Arts and Architecture presented a project dedicated to text-based art called "Summer Reading" that drew big crowds. "Over 4,000 people attended the show, we received great feedback from local and national press, and we were contacted by libraries and cultural institutions for collaborations," Milashevych says.
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Black Square will try to replicate that feat this weekend with "Matrix/Collective Memory," a new project on view beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday. It will feature the work of fellow Ukrainian Alexiy Say, Argentina's Camilo Guinot, and Spain's Carlos Zerpabzueta, each of whom create unusual pieces in which mundane objects and small elements are combined to startling effect.
For instance, Say builds his pieces using the world's most boring office software. "All his works are made in Excel spreadsheets or with diagrams," says Milashevych, who curated the exhibit. "He fills out Excel sheets with letters and colors and then prints out his pictures on photo paper. Each piece is unique, one-of-a-kind, as considered by the artist to be a digital painting."
Born in Kiev in 1975 and trained as a graphic artist at the Ukraine's National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture, Say began his project as a protest of the corporate world after working as a wage slave at an advertising agency while in art school.
"So many people around the world work for corporations, spending their lives in offices without feeling that they are producing something useful, helping other people, or contributing to society," Say relates. "But in the end, the result of their work is visually reflected in numbers on computer screens or on Excel spreadsheets."
For Say, the challenge was how to make a statement about there being more important things in life than mindlessly toiling for a paycheck. Among the results are two pieces — Heart Attack and Aspirin — that parody office managers.
"At some point, I decided to take that office material (Excel spreadsheets, stock exchange reports) and make a new kind of art which can turn the corporate business world's tools into something philosophical and aesthetic but also understandable for 'corporate people' that they could relate to their experience," the 38-year-old says.
Zerpabzueta, who is making his debut at Black Square, also creates perception-tweaking pieces that riff on digital and social media. From a distance, they appear to transform before visitors' eyes.
"Zerpabzueta makes 3-D installations of little pieces of plastic attached to each other," Milashevych says. "They have signs, codes, or letters printed or hand-painted on them and often represent the digital world."
The artist, who was born in Venezuela in 1957 and later moved to Spain, says he became interested in art as a youngster and credits his parents for encouraging his talents.
"My father was a dreamer who earned a living doing odd jobs but was also a great painter. My mother also discovered a talent for writing when I was growing up, and even though they both died young, they instilled a creative urge in me," he recalls.
Zerpabzueta looked to the excesses of the information age and the bombardment of visual noise for inspiration. Viewers who take a closer look at pieces such as Code Marks and Text Message can see the pixelated roots of his images.
"What I think impacts the public when they are confronted by my work is the vast amount of information they are encountering," Zerpabzueta says. "It poses [a challenge] to the mind and eye when presented in an unusual way."
At Black Square's Saturday show, the most appealing draw might be the work of Argentina's Guinot, who is also making his debut. The 42-year-old artist creates sensory-challenging mixed-media installations using wooden matches that Guinot says can be seen as symbolic of the human condition.
"I'm interested in the relationship between the matches and the human being as they are both vertical and have a head... but also, they have existential correspondences (they both have a limited time on Earth)," he says.
Guinot began tinkering with his concept after moving from a large studio to a tiny apartment in 2004. "I began to produce miniature sculptures with the things I had in my flat, such as fingernails, olive pits, paper clips, and matches," he recalls. "I'm interested in the physical and symbolic transformation of the things I use in my works. I want them to produce new relationships that modify our way to see our environment."
For Milashevych, the trio's unconventional work offers viewers the opportunity to reconsider their surroundings and serves as a meditation on a world that's rapidly evolving.
"We all have an innate ability to see beauty and to discover unexpected meanings in our daily routine," the curator says. "But we just forget about that gift. I think all the artists in the show are actually trying to extract beauty from boring items we use every day. Could you ever imagine a flower field 'painted' in an Excel spreadsheet or a three-dimensional material model of a text message?"
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