Processed Prose

Curated by Ombretta Agró Andruff

Swenson Gallery

On-View:  March 16–April 28, 2018


Processed Prose celebrates Miami’s month-long poetry festival O, Miami and was conceived as an homage to National Poetry Month, celebrated every April since 1996. Despite being its source of inspiration, however, the written word is rarely at the forefront of the artworks featured in this exhibition: words are burned, extracted, implied, indecipherable, or simply not there, yet their ghostly presence is heavily felt.      

In a practice that examines the relationship between time and memory through compositions and installations relying on the use of repurposed materials, ephemera, and books, Jeff Wallace presents the large-scale installation This is dedicated to the one I love. Infused by a minimalist aesthetic, the ephemeral installation uses hundreds of dedication pages – those first, nearly empty pages that authors inscribe to express gratitude for their accomplishment. The installation is a montage of emotion – one of fleeting relevance to readers, but palpable to the authors and their subjects. Inside the gallery is a selection of Wallace’s paper collages on canvas. These works present a more structured grid pattern ‘á la Rietveld’ created by alternating yellowed and stained book pages with colorful cloth strips cut from the book covers. As Wallace states, “the stories buried within these books go beyond the printed page […]. Through a process of literary archeology, I uncover and reassemble buried content and fragments – both conceptual and literal – to create new narratives that invoke times past and the journey of the original source material.”

Donna Ruff concentrates on a slowly vanishing everyday object, the print version of the newspaper. She writes: “The printed newspaper is a relic of a slower time, a different way of absorbing news, which interests me. I choose to use newspapers to create lasting works of art, mindful that each piece is situated in a specific time and place – the news of a single day – becoming both a historical document and an aesthetic one.” As a graphic designer, she worked on communicating economically, but in her art practice she pushes that economy to its limits, concentrating on subverting communication, opening new paths of perception of the printed page.

In the atrium, opposite to Wallace’s installation, Ruff is presenting a series of colorful photograms cut out in geometric patterns that are reminiscent of Islamic geometry or byzantine tiles. Placing her own cut newspaper works on photo emulsion allows both sides of the page to be captured on the print. Inside the gallery Ruff presents a wide array of works: Oh Boy is a montage of newspaper articles burned into handmade paper which began as a response to the 2004 Republican National Convention; a sculpture made with two small heavily decorated books connected with inscribed strips of paper, Es-tu comme moi?; a new series of collages using the last print edition of New York’s Village Voice; and Quotidian, a sculpture made of Japanese gampi paper cut with the shape of text and images boxes from the New York Times.

Lastly, Elysa D. Batista presents Physically Bound, a piece about finding strength in self-acceptance after the initial rejection one experiences in life, is a site-specific light-box installation created for the archway connecting the atrium to the east wing of the Bakehouse. Built with frosted Plexiglas letters, it spells the words “Traversing this path between words I find an alien in my skin yet a resident in my mind”. Elysa D. Batista is a mixed media artist who works with language, specifically the multiplicity of meaning according to different contexts. Interpreted through semiotics, her three-dimensional work explores personal experiences with power dynamics in relationships and communication.

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.”