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Miami Artists Explore the City's Fluid Nature in "Off the Wall"

From Down the River, Antonia Guerrero's series of drawings.EXPAND
From Down the River, Antonia Guerrero's series of drawings.
Antonio Guerrero

All roads lead to water in Miami. We live by it, we swim in it, and we covet it. In "Off the Wall: Three Currents, One Flow," three artists explore water as a metaphor of fluid identity in the city and in the imagination. The exhibit, opening Thursday, March 9, at Wynwood’s Artium Art Gallery, features mixed-media works on paper and paintings on canvas by Patricio Gonzalez Bezanilla, Antonio Guerrero, and Juan Miranda.

The show's curator, Carlos Suarez De Jesus, a former New Times art critic, ran Little Havana’s lab6 in the late '90s through the early '00s. His most recent space, Mercenary Square, closed in 2013. Last year, when Artium owner Eduardo Lira asked Suarez De Jesus to curate "Off the Wall," he welcomed the opportunity. He has known the artists for a long time.

“It’s ‘off the wall’ because the works appear to be very different from each other at first glance,” Suarez De Jesus says. “But we worked to conceptually connect the work.”

Water and beaches became a common theme among the artists' pieces.

Patricio Gonzalez Bezanilla's Golden Beaches/BitchesEXPAND
Patricio Gonzalez Bezanilla's Golden Beaches/Bitches
Patricio Gonzalez Bezanilla

Chilean-born, Miami-based Patricio Gonzalez Bezanilla plays with fluid gender identity by placing sexually ambiguous figures on gold leaf. “Golden Beaches/Bitches deals with the thought that Miami Beach is a golden paradise,” Suarez De Jesus says. “At the beach, you might run into a beautiful, cinematic siren, but you can’t tell if she’s really male or female. It’s hyperreality.”

Antonio Guerrero also plays with hybrid figures. In Down the River, a series of drawings and collage on wallpaper, he tells a story about nature by anthropomorphizing birds wading near river banks. “He’s an instinctive fabulist,” Suarez De Jesus notes. “You see humanlike birds. It’s a commentary about revisiting an earthly paradise.”

Guerrero, who lives in Miami Beach, hails from Matanzas, Cuba. The relationship to water resonates with his personal history. “He came over on a raft,” the curator says. “He had to eat a seagull to survive. The work reflects these deep experiences.”

In Contemplation II, the Zen Way, Juan Miranda depicts monuments, barren cityscapes, waterways, and marinas in acrylic on canvas. A sound piece by artist Abisay Puentes complements his work.

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Miranda, a Cuban-born resident of Buenos Aires, interprets water through figuration and abstraction. “It looks like it could evaporate,” Suarez De Jesus observes. “The theme of water and evaporation in his work and the sound piece reflect the vital, life-sustaining essence we are composed of and the oceans we cross to immigrate.”

For Suarez De Jesus, the exhibit goes beneath the surface to reveal a Miami that isn’t as shallow as it seems.

“Some people in this town are comfortable just dipping their toes into the water,” he says. “But people who experience this exhibit will experience a deeper Miami, a Miami profundo.”

"Off the Wall: Three Currents, One Flow"
Opening reception Thursday, March 9, from 6 to 9 p.m. Through April 5 at Artium Art Gallery, 2248 NW First Pl., Miami.

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