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Santiago Porter, Juzgado, 2007, C-print, 18” x 24”. Courtesy of Pan American Art Projects.

Santiago Porter, Juzgado, 2007, C-print, 18” x 24”. All images are courtesy of Pan American Art Projects.

Pan American Art Projects - Miami
Curated by Irina Leyva-Pérez

By Raisa Clavijo

“Urbanitas” assembled the work of ten artists who have approached the theme of the city from different perspectives. The exhibition included works by Gustavo Acosta, Luis Cruz Azaceta, José Manuel Fors, Tony Berlant, Luis Enrique Camejo, Carlos Estévez, Santiago Porter, Rogelio López Marín (Gory), Magnus Sigurdarson and Tracey Snelling.

A city should be conceived not only in geographic or architectural terms, but also as a state of mind, an accumulation of customs and traditions that differentiate and identify its inhabitants. In this sense, Carlos Estévez conceives the city as an expression of the human being’s personal universe. Each man embodies the place in which he was born and has spent his entire life, or the place where he has relocated and into which he has had to integrate himself. The works of Estévez, which spring from a profound humanist perspective, incorporate symbols associated with the idea of the city as part of the personal “imaginarium” of man as a social being. Gustavo Acosta approaches the city from memory. This artist, who has lived in various parts of the world, re-creates images that have remained etched in his mind (buildings, airports, theme parks and aerial views of the urban tapestry) in a collection of landscapes with a metaphysical flavor in which the very buildings interpret the artist’s opinion of them-what they mean to him and how they are susceptible to change as a result of the inexorable passage of time. In his oil paintings, Luis Enrique Camejo has also documented his personal journey through various urban centers by capturing fragments of life typifying the ambience of each of them.

Rogelio Lopez Marin (Gory) Untitled, from the New York Series, 2008 C-print,30 x 20 inches

Rogelio Lopez Marin (Gory) Untitled, from the New York Series, 2008 C-print,30 x 20 inches

In his photographs, the Argentinean, Santiago Porter captures the deterioration of Buenos Aires after the economic crisis that shook the country between 1999 and 2002. He captures buildings that were symbols of both economic and governmental power, which now lie dilapidated and forgotten, as if mocking the symbolic connotation they once held.

The city of New York is used as a pretext and as a theme by Gory, Luis Cruz Azaceta, Tony Berlant and Milton George. Gory traps details lost in the chaos of everyday life-edifices in ruin or under construction, objects discarded in the street, flashes of storefronts, etc. Cruz Azaceta approaches this urban center from a social and political standpoint in pieces such as Terrorist (2010) and Museum Plan for Strategic Games (2006), alluding to 9/11 and the repercussions of this event on recent U.S. history. In their works, Tony Berlant and Milton George convey the sense of abandonment felt by the ordinary person upon arriving in a great bustling and chaotic metropolis like New York.

For her part, Tracey Snelling presents a body of work based on the relationship between physical space and the experiences of human beings residing in it. Her oeuvre manifests a debt to voyeurism and the film noir aesthetic. She constructs models of motels with windows through which the visitor can peek at videos made from fragments of numerous classic movies. On occasion she incorporates snapshots of herself into the enigmatic, sordid or amusing scenes in which she reconstructs events taking place in these spaces.

Finally, Magnus Sigurdarson uses his great sense of humor to address the process of adapting to a new city, a new country and a new culture. In his photographs, he presents himself as a Beefeater, the anachronistic personage symbolic of London, wandering around the city. The artist finds himself in diverse amusing situations, observing details of the metropolis’ daily life, as though searching for the means to insert himself into a totally alien social context.

“Urbanitas,” uses the city as a pretext to relate physical space with themes alluding to politics, migration, exile, identity and human relations. It is an exhibition that challenges the visitor to reflect on his environment, the city in which he lives, and to render his own interpretation of the places he frequents.

(December 10, 2011 - February 4, 2012)

Raisa Clavijo is an art critic and curator based in Miami.

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