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Luis Montoya and Leslie Ortiz’s Adventures

ArtSpace Virginia Miller Galleries - Miami

By Raisa Clavijo

“Culinary Adventures,” an exhibition of the works of Luis Montoya and Leslie Ortiz, was presented at the beginning of this year at ArtSpace Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables. This duo of artists, who have worked together for more than 20 years, explores in the smallest detail forms found in nature. Their bronzes and oil paintings recapture the value of still life, a genre traditionally marginalized within the history of Western art.

Still life dates back as far as ancient art. Scenes that faithfully represent flowers and fruit and that convey details about diet and domestic life have been found in the relics of Ancient Egypt. Similarly, still lifes created with a realist perspective were found in murals in Roman villas, as well as in mosaics in Pompeii and Herculaneum. However, it was in the 17th century, in the Netherlands, that this genre reached its greatest splendor and gained a place in history. Montoya and Ortiz value the effort of Baroque Dutch artists who studied the forms of nature in detail and immortalized them on canvas, even taking into account details like changes in color and texture depending on how light falls on them. This hyperrealist obsession caused Montoya and Ortiz to isolate such objects and turn them into the protagonist of their pieces, a strategy also put into practice by Pop artists in the second half of the 20th century, who embellished them with a subtle sense of humor.

Luis Montoya and Leslie Ortiz, Series Escargot I – Dinner Plate, 2005, bronze. Courtesy of ArtSpace Virginia Miller Galleries.

Luis Montoya and Leslie Ortiz, Series Escargot I – Dinner Plate, 2005, bronze. Courtesy of ArtSpace Virginia Miller Galleries.

The work of these two artists is based on re-creating natural forms-traditionally considered foreign to the idea of art such as eggs, artichokes, mollusks, bananas, olives, shrimp and grapes, among others-and carrying them to an exaggerated scale. The pieces appear to come from a surrealistic scene, challenging perception and all sense of proportion to be exhibited in the gallery or museum space in an even more surrealistic gesture.

Montoya and Ortiz wager everything on technical skill. Their sculptures have been produced using the lost-wax technique, a process that can take them up to eight weeks to complete. The forms are first modeled in wax and then covered by clay and fired to create a mold into which the molten bronze will be poured. The resulting bronze piece is then carefully polished and patinated to accentuate its realism. At a time when the international art scene has been overrun by artists who rely on pretentious conceptualism to overcome their lack of technical skill, this duo presents us with a body of work that invites viewers to explore every detail so they can marvel at the beautiful texture of a piece of rope, the structure of a leaf and the freshness of a fruit.

Montoya and Ortiz do not reveal a specific iconography that impels us as viewers to create allegoric and metaphoric associations upon observing their pieces. Nevertheless, they cause us to change our perception of the most common objects, leading us to see them in a new light and simply discover the sublime beauty enclosed in their forms.

(November 4, 2016 - February 24, 2017)

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