As the midafternoon sun beat down on his pale shoulders this past weekend, Amilcar Packer struggled with a twin-size mattress he was wedging between the iron bars of a fence enclosing a lot in Wynwood.
The Chilean artist, who had a GoPro camera strapped to his head, spent most of the day weaving mattresses, sheets of cardboard, rubber rafts, sofa cushions, album covers, books, and sundry materials through the bars at both ends of the space between the Waltman Ortega Fine Art and Praxis International Art galleries.
From across the street, as the afternoon progressed, the artist's project, titled Para_site, began to look like an abstract mural. Packer is in town for the exhibit "Modify, As Needed," opening this Thursday at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The exhibit, organized by Ruba Katrib, MOCA's associate curator,
showcases the work of 11 artists who use readily accessible materials
and employ playful tactics in making their art. In addition to Packer,
participants include Kathryn Andrews, Darren Bader, Nina Beier, Karl
Holmqvist, Adriana Lara, Natalia Ibáñez Lario, José Carlos Martinat,
Nicolás Paris, Nick Relph, and Anders Smebye.
Packer says his project deals with the notion of how fences segregate
people from one another, the concept of private versus public property,
and how contemporary society has become more isolating and restrictive.
"My idea of the fence is as a device that functions as a barrier to keep
us from confronting the 'other,' or that perceived potential enemy we
fear or seek protection from," he says.
"You see fences everywhere walling off private property. You see bars on
windows in people's homes. This restriction of space -- areas one is
denied access to -- also reminds one of prisons and of a growing
By interlacing the fences with items he collected from MOCA's storage
space and local thrift shops, Packer liberated the enclosure, turning it
into a sort of urban agora, or gathering place for a ritual
early-evening meal. "I wanted it to be a very humble gesture," the
artist says. "One of the concerns was not to create an event, a
spectacle, but rather to inscribe the action/intervention as an everyday
practice of gathering people."
Meanwhile José Carlos Martinat is
unintentionally spoofing Miami's plastic-surgery-addled vibe. He has
developed a technique to give walls a face peel. In his native Peru, he
typically appropriates political signs and slogans painted on public
buildings and private homes using liquid glue.
"I paint over the signs with the stuff, and when it dries, I peel off
the sections or individual letters to create my own words or slogans in
response on the same wall," he explains. Martinat says the first piece
he made was the word mentira (lie) in his series Ejercicios
Superficiales (Superficial Exercises).
"I'll appropriate one letter from each of the different painted signs
to create my own. The political campaigns back home are very aggressive;
some of these signs have letters up to three meters in height. It's
crazy -- the stuff is painted everywhere, creating this huge visual
noise," Martinat says.
Last year, when the artist appropriated bits of graffiti to exhibit in a
gallery, several graffiti artists stormed the space and defaced the
walls in protest, even assaulting the art dealer with cans of spray
paint. "They waited for him outside and covered him with spray,"
Martinat says. "But they were very respectful of my other work and left
it untouched. It's ironic because I was working with the notions of some
who see graffiti as vandalism of public space."
At MOCA, the artist will show a 12-by-12-foot section of museum wall
whose surface he peeled back until it curled down to the floor.
Look for the full preview in this week's issue.
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There will be an opening reception this Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. "Modify, As Needed" will be up through
November 13 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (770 NE 125th St., North
Miami) Call 305-893-6211or visit mocanomi.org.