Eric Torriente, Ice Fishing Cataclysm, 2010, from the series When Mankind was Young
Almost everyone has an opinion about the year 2012. Big disaster, time to head for the mountains, or just another day. It’s also the year when the Marlins stadium is scheduled to open. No matter what you believe, we are in a remarkable historical moment that is generating a huge output of outer-limits ideas: both apocalyptic scenarios and visions of future renewal.
20(12): Twenty Twelve, an exhibition curated by Kiki Valdes and presented at Miami Art Space, taps into the stream of ideas about this particular year. He asked a number of local artists whether they were thinking about 2012. Not what they were thinking, necessarily, or how it was manifesting in their work, just whether it was somewhere in their thoughts. This was the selection process that generated the exhibition. The assumption is this: if it’s on your mind, it’s going to be embedded in your work. The year 2012 then functioned here as an organizing principle – a way to sample groups of related ideas without imposing a rigid structure on them. It also provided a meeting ground for an unexpected group of artists, many of whom are not represented in Miami galleries.
Based on the title, this show could have been filled with new-age metaphysical regurgitations. It’s easy to imagine how it might have gone wrong. But in this show, thanks to a quality selection of artists, there are no clichés. None of the works directly addresses the 2012 question, and none is limited by it. In some cases, it’s actually a stretch to relate the title of the show to the individual work. Due to the diversity of styles included, aesthetic continuity is somewhat lacking. Yet there are surprising patterns of thematic resonance that bounce from work to work, across the show. This is where 20(12): Twenty Twelve succeeds. In general the most interesting aspect of this exhibition is the light it sheds on what lurks beneath the surface of day-to-day reality. Extreme situations bring exaggerated psychological depths to the surface, and this exhibition serves as a partial map of our collective unconscious: who or what generates fear, and who or what will save us?
With the exception of Oreilyscape, a collage by Oliver Sanchez crowded with buildings, fires and explosions, there are no outright disaster scenes. Instead, things are out of balance. Something is missing, stability has been lost, something is out of control. This manifests simply in Raul Perdomo’s Recurrence, an abstract explosion on a flat baby blue background. More literally, Valdes’ sculpture, Hurricane/Erosion Hoop Dream, is an object that has been destroyed over time by both natural disaster and urban decay.
Johnny Robles, Island Closed
The relationships between human beings and the natural world are considered specifically in Eric Torriente’s Ice Fishing Cataclysm, which shows a battle for survival between men, fish, and a raging ocean, and, more mysteriously, in Johnny Roble’s captivatingly eerie Island Closed. These works point back to a primitive way of life to which, it is imagined, we may one day return. Minus technology, the human race is left to fend for itself with sticks, stones and bare hands. A question is implicit – what are we losing, as languages, traditional knowledge and rituals become extinct? Alongside the potentially dreaded future that seems ingrained in the psyche is the nostalgic once-harmonious relationship to the earth. In the context of this show, Roble’s image suggests that, post-disaster, we start over again but we’re not in Eden anymore.
Freegums (Alvaro Ilizarbe), (L-R) Your Majesty, The Grand Master and The Great Architect of the Universe
Thank goodness then, or beware, of otherworldly intervention. Jesus makes a couple of appearances, along with Buddha, the devil, a werewolf, and Freegum’s made-up deities. And for the more secular-minded, there are a few images of the military. In some cases, these figures are taking an active interest in earthly affairs, as in George Sanchez-Calderon’s Vacas Flacas the FKG Devil, but for the most part, they are simply present, standing by, because disaster and death tend to provoke prayer in even the most resolute atheists. In some ways, this theme connects to the revival of primitive traditions and rituals, many of which are ultimately sacred practices, but it also uncovers the more general belief systems that ultimately define our conception of what we are doing on this planet, how we got here, and where we are headed next. In 2012, it seems, we get to find out who’s really running the show[.]
George Sanchez-Calderon, Vacas Flacas the FKG Devil
Artists: Reinier Gamboa, Brian Gefen, Alvaro Ilizarbe, David Marsh, Raul Perdomo, Johnny Robles, Oliver Sanchez, George Sanchez-Calderon, John Sevigny, David Tamargo, Eric Torriente and Kiki Valdes
Twenty Twelve: 20(12) is on view at Miami Art Space (244 NW 35th Street, Miami, FL) by appointment, (786) 315-8369.
Closing reception: Saturday July 10, 6-11pm
This post was contributed by Annie Hollingsworth, winner of this year’s Miami Writer’s Prize.