Cindy Sherman and Lee Materazzi Get Behind the Mask at World Class Boxing

Your face is forever changing. As time passes, a network of fine lines creeps across your forehead, around your mouth, under your eyes. You gain weight and your jaw line droops. When you're happy, your face is open and bright, seeming to broadcast inner states of being. But darker moods throw up an opaque screen, an impenetrable mask. You are hidden.

Running through July 31, "Mystic Visage," at World Class Boxing contemplates the human face in its many aged, disguised, and evolved forms. Recently, curator Desiree Cronk explained a few things for New Times, such as mysticism, masks, and Cindy Sherman.

New Times: What's the origin of the phrase "Mystic Visage"? What does it mean?

Desiree Cronk: Mystic comes from mysticism, which in the ancient Greek is "mystikos." It often refers to some awareness of the self with a higher power, such as God. Virtually every religious tradition in the world has some interpretation of the mystic and it naturally involves the self or individual coming to a higher form of knowledge or enlightenment. A mystic visage in turn would be a higher interpretation of the visage (from the Latin "visus") or face. The idea of the title for the show, "Mystic Visage," therefore, plays with these ancient and also very contemporary notions of the face as masks. Contemporary artists use these "visages" to great and varying effects and like the notion of mysticism, the artists are seeking a higher, artistic, sophisticated interpretation of the mask and all the dramatic, tragic, happy, fanciful, individualistic, ritualistic meanings that this embodies.

There are nine artists, both local and world-famous, in the show. What is the common thread between them?

There are specific interests by all the artists in figurative work. This is a primary form of expression by the nine artists included in the exhibition. Such work tends to be quite difficult in a society bombarded with information and solid imagery. It is a difficult level of art-making when artists can take a form known since antiquity -- a face or mask -- and transform it to have so many different meanings.

In what ways do the individual artists on display address what you call the "mythical, practical, poetic and universal functions" of the mask?

Each artist interprets the various ideas behind masks quite differently. Masks serve to multiply identities as is exemplified in the work of Cindy Sherman. She explores very unreal, over-the-top female personae from sun-worshippers, clowns, and clawed grotesques. Her very human figures are nonetheless so unreal that they become "drag" in nature. A wonderfully crafted and captured example of the modern death mask is Gabriel Orozco's Bki from 2004. In Pepe Mar's Face-Off role-playing is projected onto the consumer culture as a whole. At first glance, the work resembles a tribal mask, sharp, defined, almost human. Upon closer inspection, it is constructed out of cut paper from beer boxes, shoe boxes, and fashion magazines: the detritus of modern human culture. Face-Off is a good example, both in title and spirit, of work from a culture that is socially and morally dysfunctional. We are theatrical at all times, removing our own faces and donning new ones, never revealing truly which one is the real persona.

"Mystic Visage," featuring work by Cindy Sherman, Fergus Greer, Adam Helms, Pepe Mar, Lee Materazzi, William J. O'Brien, Gabriel Orozco, Josh Smith, and Jack Strange. World Class Boxing, 170 NW 23rd St., Miami. The gallery is open 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 305-438-9908 or visit worldclassboxing.org.

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