For the last decade, the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO) has promoted contemporary Latin American art, while the Centro Cultural Español (CCE) has focused on Spanish art. By digressing from that anticipated focus, new exhibitions at both venues confirm ongoing connections between Spanish and Latin American art. CIFO is exhibiting sculptures by Spanish artist Miquel Navarro, while concurrently CCE is showing Venezuelan artists Eugenio Espinoza and Andres Michelena.
As different as the materials and concepts these three artists have used may be, both exhibitions examine the role art and architecture play in shaping geographical space.
A selection of Navarro’s sculptures is on display in CIFO’s exhibition, City Metaphor. Most of them were created in the 1990s and 2000s and are drawn from collection of the Institute of Modern Art of Valencia. The exhibition includes both Navarro’s freestanding minimalist sculptures as well as his complex installations. Seen together, they reveal two aspects of Navarro’s work: the fusion of his sculpture with architecture and his vision of the city.
His massive metal sculptures are a commanding presence in CIFO’s galleries, just as they would be in an outdoor setting. Their wedges, half moons and columns are, in fact, reminiscent of much public art, and many of Navarro’s sculptures are displayed in Spanish and other European cities. These models of modernist abstraction are as visually comforting as Navarro’s reworking of them into imaginary landscapes is disconcerting.
The centerpieces of floor installations that Navarro calls “clusters” repeat many of the shapes that he uses in his sculptures. Only now, instead of being geometric abstractions, they evoke imaginary urban landscapes, from homes to skyscrapers to factories. Spread out across the gallery floor, the installations consist of sculptures that seemingly have been deconstructed in order to resemble a city seen from above.
This body of Navarro’s work explores how cities can simultaneously suggest order and chaos, permanence and transience, depending on the spectator. Navarro’s stated intention may be to reveal the order and structure inherent in his sculptural landscapes, but they also raise questions about the roles of art and architecture.
In Solar II, an installation composed of almost 1700 pieces, four monoliths — arguably skyscrapers — rise above what appears to be a complex of miniscule houses and streets. The disproportionate scale of the towers compared to the surrounding community questions the outsized role of landmark architecture in the development of the urban environment.
Similarly, another of Navarro’s clusters, Placon, uses visual ambiguity to pose unanswered questions about leisure and domesticity. A large sculpture of solid marine aluminum, which could be interpreted just as easily as a surfboard or an iron, towers over an array of small cones.
The CIFO presentation is Navarro’s first exhibition in South Florida. On the other hand, Eugenio Espinoza and Andres Michelena—the Venezuelan artists whose work is being shown at CCE — have been widely exhibited in local museums and galleries. Both currently live in Florida, the former in Gainesville, the latter in Miami.
In Remembering/Arranging/Resisting, the two artists continue the discussion about art, architecture and the built environment.
Using a much more abstract and minimalist vocabulary than Navarro, Espinoza’s floor installation Negativa Moderna also explores the urban environment, employing the artist’s trademark black-and-white grid. Accompanying photographs document how it started out as neatly arranged strips of unprimed canvas with black stripes that are reminiscent of organized street plans. As visitors to CCE have walked over Espinoza’s installation, however, the canvas strips have become displaced and disordered — in much the same way that cities grow organically and diverge from the meticulously crafted street patterns favored by urban planners.
Michelena’s work contrasts two- and three-dimensional representations of space. A series of drawings entitled Countervision hanging on the wall echoes the forms of the geometric sculptures made from wooden beams that have been placed on the floor.
The works by Espinoza and Michelena on display at the Spanish cultural center are on loan from CIFO itself. Another mark of collaboration between local cultural organizations is a documentary film about two artists, co-produced with the Design District’s Arevalo Gallery, which is being screened in CCE’s projection room.
Separately, the two exhibitions at CIFO and CCE present different concepts of urban space. Navarro draws upon a Spanish sculptural tradition that expanded to encompass installation art, while Espinoza and Michelena draw on Venezuela’s history of geometric abstraction. Seen together—and they are only a few city blocks apart—they provoke a discussion about how art and architecture interact with daily life.