Untitled (Video Still), Federico Nessi

Spinello Stops 'em in Their Tracks at the Art Walk

One has to tip the chapeau to Anthony Spinello. The spunky young dealer has transformed his modest gallery about as often as his competitors change their underwear. During this past Saturday’s Wynwood season-opening art walk, he stopped traffic along NW Second Avenue, outhustling most of the bigger venues fishing for eyeballs on a night when the crowds where the largest in recent memory.

“I wanted to create a museum show in my small space,” said Spinello. “The artist spent nearly two months this summer preparing for this show.”

Emotional Response Can Be Deconditioned marked Federico Nessi’s first solo exhibit at Spinello. The 26-year-old artist succeeded in conveying the sense of someone undergoing a Skinnerian douche following the wreckage of a tormented relationship. “It deals with the Seventies notion that aversion therapy could be used to control emotions,” Nessi explained. “I wanted to create an environment where people would find themselves experiencing the anxiety and confusion of uncertainty in a visceral way.”

Entering the space, one is assailed by a wall of white noise. Nessi reconfigured the gallery’s interior, creating an enclosure in which dueling video monitors pin the viewer in an eerie dialogue between two figures that never utter a word.

"He is He and He is You Too" is a looped ten-minute, two-channel video piece featuring the artist and his gallerist on opposing screens. Their faces bob and weave under the glare of light beams as if they were each undergoing the third degree. As the film progresses, it appears the men are searching for each other with flashlights as if they were trapped in opposite ends of a mineshaft. The tug-of-war vibe reminds one how people struggle to get closer to each other while invariably pulling away.

Standing inside the space, you can literally touch the monitors hung at eye level by extending both arms against the confining walls. Nessi has used subwoofers and a hiccupping radio frequency to ratchet up the aggressive, confrontational nature of the piece, piercing the senses in a fashion that makes you feel trapped between a quarreling, codependent couple on the verge of imploding.

It drags you into the fray. There is something deeply evocative about the work that provokes a gut-check about the obsessive side of love and the complexity of human interactions.

"In You Held Me Like A Crucifix," an arresting nine-panel digital print piece, Nessi weaves a poignant narrative in which two men appear ready to engage in oral sex. He calls the work “the most intensely personal” in the exhibit and says that it reflects his struggle in dealing with his homosexuality as a Hispanic man who grew up in a strictly Catholic home.

In the black-and-white images, a young man appears sitting on the edge of a bed with his face obscured by a T-shirt wrapped cowl-like around his head. As he unzips the trousers of a man who looms above him, a flashlight casts a shameful glow on the impending blow job.

On a wall across from the images, a photo depicts a solitary man sitting on an armchair as ropes of light erupt in an umbilical flow from his chest. The metaphysical nature of his agony is further illuminated by mounds of shattered mirrors and dangling light sources arranged in an altar-like offering in a corner of the gallery nearby.

Near the end of the evening, Nessi and several collaborators performed an extended version of “Haunted When The Minutes Drag” by Love and Rockets outside Spinello’s doors.

As the cascade of music drew hordes to the space, Nessi sheared performance artist Ana Mendez’s dreads. It was a cleansing of the baggage many people drag like chains in the wounded recesses of their skulls. “I think that recognition of painful feelings is what makes you accept who you are and go on,” Nessi sighed. After his performance, City of Miami Police had to swoop in front of Spinello’s to scatter the throngs that choked off traffic.

-- Carlos Suarez De Jesus

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