Summer's Heavy and Light
Out in Westchester in the dentist's office of Arturo Mosquera, Elizabeth Cerejido has put on a very personal show called "Absence." In photographs and video she deals with biographic and intimate material -- her own experience going through the death of her father and her mother's diagnosis with Alzheimer's. A degenerative disease of the brain, Alzheimer's is a form of dementia and results in increasing loss of memory.
A local photographer who has been active in Miami, Cerejido targets a dramatic moment of the disease when the patient is fully aware that she is losing her mind and can do nothing to stop it. Silent video images shift with poetic detachment from productive life to a potentially overwhelming task-driven present. We see Cerejido's mother as she walks the neighborhood streets, or placidly takes a break on her rocking chair inside her home.
There are photos of essential objects, now perhaps overlooked: an umbrella that used to belong to Cerejido's father; a sewing machine covered and untouched. These differ from other photos of loose sheets containing lists of precise tasks to be performed: a telephone (with instructions stuck to the receiver) of which buttons not to touch, or an almanac with explicit daily duties.
The artist contrasts these shots of mostly dear objects with black-and-white framed captions, which refer to the photos' content. One may find this a little redundant, since the captions already speak to the viewer and the photos are unambiguous. The artist assembles the obvious to show that, paradoxically, it is not. Alzheimer's is about redundancy.
Cerejido takes us through her mother's drama of losing her mind: Short memories do not hold and while she is reminded not to forget, she may forget the reminder's meaning. At some point, the artist seems to imply, her mother would overlook those written tasks, along with some of her personal possessions. Outside the biographical, "Absence" effectively points out the importance of human awareness as it relates to the notion of meaningfulness, and hints at a new development in Cerejido's style and attitude.
Back east in the Design District, Kevin Bruk Gallery opened "Effexor 75," a quirky sculpture show characterized by Bruk as a quasi-religious, antidepressant (Effexor is such a drug) summer group exhibit of Miami artists, or as a pink bunny on LSD. As I doodle in my notebook, I decide to concoct my assessment around Bruk's curatorial and biographical lead, trying to merge the analytic and the blissful.
First room to my left: nice wall angle to introduce Glexis Novoa's Pinnacles, and a bit startling to have to come so close to the piece to understand it. Novoa's trick is to work a marble slab on its edge, making splendid vistas alongside splint, fold, band, and peak, and inside the crystal.
From true marble to faux, you segue into Squared Bowling Balls by Westen Charles. The glossy set of cubes on the floor can be toylike (a square face with dotty eyes?) or just gawky (rolling squares?). Within Bruk's summer manifesto, Charles's game to dwell in a calm, seemingly aloof intellectual scheme makes perfect sense.
The second room has a different piece-dialogue. I follow the trail left by Charles's work and find Cesar Trasobares's Free Leaves, a set of five leaflike marble pieces. These are the only other marble forms besides Novoa's, but they are closer to the squared bowling balls in regard to conceptual kinship. You have to dance between notion and reality. I ponder Trasobares's clues: massive and light, free and bound, but for some reason I would have preferred more marble leaves to make the point, or else a different location, closer to minimally graceful affinities; a question of quantity against conflict.
Planetron by Robert Chambers looks like some archaic model intended to illustrate universal gravitation. It's a scooter wheel attached to two marble spheres, one half the other's size, held by a rod and made to turn onto itself. Beside ideas of gravitation and orbit, you get clear hints of Duchamp and Marinetti. This follows Chambers's fondness for engineering the fantastic -- the best piece thematically to fit with "Effexor."
Bruk uses sphere and attraction to point to David Rohn's wall. Something I like about Rohn's images is his touch of resolute banality. For his Untitled he stacks a symmetric arrangement of 30 concrete blocks, which form a wall into which he inscribes the image of a man bouncing a ball with his head. Generally a wall inscription speaks of an indelible mark left for others to view in the future. Here, instead, Rohn's ideogram (over this fragment of a wall's rough texture) shows a self-conscious gesture of idleness against a backdrop of historic imperviousness. What he documents is not grand (as one imagines the traces of history to be), but at best the fleeting and trivial pages of our unheroic lives.
Johan Creten's Female Torso VII consists of, well, a ceramic female torso. The piece feels anachronistic because, unlike all of its companions in this room, it lacks a title concept. Yet, if seen as a counterpart to Rohn's chiseled fresco and Trasobares's leaves, it may carry a revisionist classical importance. My guess is that Bruk uses the piece for its pure sculptural value.
Effexor 75 by Gabriel Delponte cites the show's title obliquely with exactly 250 little, mostly greenish resin squares, each encasing a drawing, taking up an entire wall. The series works as a broken sequence in a life of pervasive apprehension, triggered by environmental and personal factors. I liked Delponte's drawings (jumpy and nervous, communicating a frantic yet unapproachable quality), but take exception to the obvious: those squares with drug names written on them -- already got it.
"Effexor" succeeds in following Bruk's summer mission, but some of the tensions expressed here may give others a bit of pause -- that is, if I'm not misguided in embracing Bruk's religion.
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