Cuban artists who dare to tiptoe the tightrope between freedom of expression and critiquing their government risk censorship or even jail time. They have to strike the perfect balance between creativity and political and social commentary, all while gambling that a rigid cultural ministry doesn't crack down on their projects.
So Havana's artistic husband-and-wife team of José Toirac and Meira Marrero deserve every bit of international acclaim they've received for a body of work that subverts Cuba's political history. Their pieces often include imagery of historic events and people found in the national archives that are re-created with a satirical twist.
The couple has not totally escaped censorship by the Cuban government, of course, and some of their most controversial works will be on view at Pan American Art Projects in Wynwood beginning at 6 p.m. this weekend to launch the Second Saturday Art Walk season opener. Here are our top picks for the quasi-official countdown to Art Basel.
Although José Toirac and Meira Marrero have exhibited across the States at museums, universities, and institutions since 1998, this marks their first major solo in a U.S. gallery and will include paintings, sculptures, installations, and videos. The provocative, conceptually freighted exhibit takes its name from a series of paintings of Cuba's former first ladies. Toirac and Marrero had first proposed the piece when another work, titled 1896-2006, was censored from a planned display at the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts in Havana.
That's not the case at Pan American, where the dozen works on display not only transcend Cuba's restrictions but explore the transient nature of vanity and its effect on life. The works span from 1992 to today and represent different stages of the artists' careers. Perhaps the piece that best captures the spirit of the exhibit is a tiny work crafted from 18-karat gold that distills the Cuban revolution's failures into a laughably minuscule form. Titled Toda la Gloria del Mundo Cabe en un Grano de Maíz (All the World's Glory Fits Into a Corn Kernel) (2013), the piece takes its name from a famous José Martí phrase appropriated by Fidel to extol his revolution and assure Cuba's people that their future would be peaceful, prosperous, and secure.
Pan American Art Projects 2450 NW 2nd Ave, Miami. 305-573-2400, panamericanart.com.
Curated by Justin Gilanyi, this group show features LA-based artists Leon Benn, Srijon Chowdhury, Marten Elder, Iva Gueorguieva, Michael John Kelly, Alexander Kroll, Owen Kydd, and Samantha Thomas. The curator is hanging the geo-centric survey salon style, floor-to-ceiling, to convey a sense of what it feels like to get stuck in traffic on the freeway against an urban backdrop sans skyscrapers as compass needle points.
"There is no center height where paintings hang or consistent amount of spacing in between pieces, just a composite of singular vertical viewpoints that attempts to mimic the movement of the gaze through LA," explains the gallery handout. We're not sure what Gilanyi means, but after the recent exodus of Miami talent to LaLa Land, we're certainly curious to discover what their West Coast peers are up to.
This long-anticipated solo exhibition by the TM Sisters boasts sensory-jarring video installations, sculpture, collage and performance work. Monica and Tasha Lopez De Victoria are harnessing light and sound waves to fuel their conceptual legerdemain with prisms, muscle-testing, and psychological frameworks.
The results on display are a rainbow-bright spectacle of refracted light patterns, such as in a video where people radiate with mother-of-pearl incandescence while the sibling artists infuse yet other works with their knowledge of "neurokinetic therapy and prismatic healing methods" with their trademark mind-boggling effect. Expect to be dazed, fascinated and left charged with gleeful exuberance by these insatiably inventive talents known for their boundary-breaking experiments.
Taxonomy of a Landscape
Explore one of Jose Luis Landet's panoramic geographical scenes, and you might experience an odd sense of Déjà vu. That's because the Argentine artist collects oddly familiar old landscape paintings at flea markets and garage sales during his extensive travels, tears the canvases apart and reconfigures the shards of bucolic countryside into imaginary vistas that are distinctly his vision. Imagine these works as a low-tech version of the TM Sisters' prismatic experiments, but where Landet's canvases suggest a landscape refracted through the prism of insect eyesight instead.
At Dot Fiftyone, he has taken over the main gallery room to transport viewers to his make believe terrain comprised of a sprawling installation boasting paintings, collages, drawings, sculptures and objects. Typically the Buenos Aires-based talent rescues tiny patches of these places from hundreds of different canvases to weave a tapestry of vanished stories into a single narrative that conveys notions of fading memory, the fragile nature of our environment, and the inexorable nature of time's passage.
In Dot's Project Room, don't miss Pablo Jansana's "New Monuments,' in which the Chilean-born, New York-based artist focuses on the human body as the staging ground for political and personal confrontation. Jansana, who often mines social, cultural and architectural issues in his oeuvre, is presenting new works that reflect on repressive networks that double as regulating structures.
Dot Fiftyone Gallery, 187 NW 27th St., Miami. 305-573-9994, visit dotfiftyone.com.
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Tales in the Ground Glass: Adventures of a Badass Grandma
Peggy Levison Nolan, who boasts four grandkids and another on the way, has a gift for everyday scenes that manage to convey a sense of mystery. Take for example her close-cropped picture of a chair with a used hanky tucked in its seam. Did granny walk in on Joey while he was watching porn on the Internet, or does the picture capture the aftermath of a sob fest after reading that a dear friend passed in the Sunday obituaries? With Nolan's work, you are never sure. The ambiguous nature of her images capture the beauty of the quotidian while implying a grander narrative.