There are several European galleries that maintain a second outpost in Wynwood. Usually, the dealers visit their spaces here once or twice a year, primarily during Art Basel. It's a cheap way to gain a foothold in our art scene and save on renting a booth during the fair.
Many of these spaces maintain a skeleton crew and low operational budgets, allowing them to rotate stock out of their headquarters and present exhibits here in the hopes that their artists might catch the eyes of a passing collector. (Most don't have a list of local buyers to scare up to their shows.)
The good thing about those galleries is they offer access to artists one might never encounter outside of the art fair circuit. Such is the case at the Paris-based Lelia Mordoch Gallery exhibiting "Pigment Rouges (Red Peppers)" a surprisingly nifty collection of retro-contempo psychedelic abstract canvases by Japan's Yukio Imamura.
Encountering Imamura's work for the first time during a rainy afternoon in Wynwood, what popped to mind was Dali's comment, "I don't take drugs. I am drugs." What is even more astonishing is that Imamura is 76 years old and that his acrylic and China ink paintings mark a wild departure from the other series of monochromatic paintings on display, which depict sedate visions of faraway celestial spheres observed through a telescope and titled "Zenon Vol."
It's hard to imagine someone his age so drastically changing his style in the winter of his career, without spicing up his breakfast birdseed with chemical additives.
Instead his fresher, wildly playful and boldly colored canvases drag the viewer into the inner catacombs of Imamura's brain pan. Brimming with phalanxes of tiny red peppers marching across a subterranean network of the artist's fecund imagination, the fiery chilies take over huge stretches of canvas upon which they scale ladders to the sky and battle roaming bacteria or mutant magicians to assert their claim on a dystopian world.
In Libido Electro-stimulation station for all living organisms, saturated with landscapes, both inner and outer, that twist and writhe over his composition, the image is radiant with peppery sex and sunlight as if refracted and intensified through the kaleidoscopic lens of an acid trip.
In another spaced-out work, Imamura depicts a Smurf-blue colored airplane crashing on his breakfast table as a tangerine orange sunset blazes in the background. His works remind one of a '60s Peter Max poster or the album cover for the Beatles' Yellow Submarine.
At Lelia Mordoch, Imamura seems to be lost in a tantric reverie uniquely his own, tripping on a conceptual dreamtime during which his companion red peppers are leading him to another dimension where the voice of William Burroughs has blessed him with a rhizomatic knowledge of the nature of the surreal.
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Forget the Zen influences of his earlier paintings here. Once you experience Imamura's schizzy paintings of dancing Capsicum fruit, you may leave the space convinced the Japanese septuagenarian might next be ready to create his own version of the Sistine Chapel boasting a plague of peppers of truly Biblical proportions. And, pilgrims, amen to him.
"Pigment Rouge (Red Peppers)"is on view through November 19 at Lelia Mordoch Gallery (2300 North Miami Avenue, Miami). Admission is free. Call 786-431-1506 or visit galerieleliamordoch.com.