Urban Steeling

Curated by Ombretta Agró Andruff

Swenson Gallery

On-View:  May 5–June 24, 2018

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Urban Steeling celebrates Miami’s deeply urban, gritty side, the “anti-tropical paradise” look that is rarely brought under the spotlight.

Away from the pristine beaches, blue skies and swaying palm trees of Miami Beach, and the glass and steel skyscrapers that give Brickell its futuristic look, Urban Steeling pays homage to a side of Miami that is often ignored and yet is crucial to the identity of our multifaceted city.

Bakehouse artist Scott Brennan’s photography builds on the legacy of urban photography legends such as Eugene Atget, Brassai and Lee Friedlander, whose work focused on landscapes, urban and not, with an almost complete absence of human presence.

On the atrium wall, Brennan’s Dead Pay Phone series documents these urban “archeological” relics: for years a critical means of communication, they became obsolete soon after the advent of cheap mobile phones; now, too expensive to remove, they populate the streets of metropolises around the globe, a stern reminder of the pace of technology in our contemporary world. Inside the Swenson Gallery, images of parking garages, empty lots with the occasional street sign or lamp post, chain-link fences and abandoned cars enter in a fascinating dialogue with the steel and bronze sculptures of Ralph Provisero.

Provisero creates sculptures with industrial objects that seem precarious as they balance, suggesting extreme potential energy where large, heavy objects appear light and elegant. The works featured in the Swenson Gallery are reminiscent of weapons created in a dystopian world, made of iron and steel topped with bronze oversized bullets. One piece, titled Pay to Pray, featuring a church votive stand upon which bullets stand in place of candles, is set against the wall, paired with images from Brennan’s repertoire that portray or evoke religious icons and abandoned sites of worship. On the atrium wall, Provisero’s Zanzara (“mosquito” in Italian), an imposing I-beam and aluminum sculpture, appears to defy gravity as it hangs precariously on the wall like a giant mosquito, perhaps the result of a genetic-engineering experiment gone awry.

Both artists, through their preferred media, create allegories of contemporary urban culture, “stealing” or creating images that become, as Provisero writes, “elements frozen momentarily in time, referencing mood and memory.”