South Florida artists respond to pandemic at NSU Art Museum

Beginning July 30, NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale will present “Future Past Perfect,” consisting of a series seven concurrent solo museum shows featuring South Florida artists Nathalie Alfonso, Susan Kim Alvarez, Joel Gaitan, Kandy G Lopez, Alejandro Piñeiro Bello, Lulu Sanchez, and Zoe Schweiger. The exhibition marks the first solo museum show for these artists and explores the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on emerging artists careers and their artistic practices.

Experienced collectively, these solo exhibitions will demonstrate how these seven artists confronted their fears of the unknown, grappled with the tragic consequences of the pandemic, and explored themes such as politics, migration, global warming, and social justice. Their distinct artistic practices were honed and influenced by the isolation experienced during the pandemic, resulting in exponential growth, maturity, and mastery of their work showcasing the vibrant diversity of South Florida’s communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented unforeseen challenges to the artistic community, derailing the trajectories of many emerging artists. Those who were art students during the pandemic navigated the intimidating task of building an art practice in isolation, while museums and galleries remained shuttered for extended periods of time. Forced to rely heavily on the internet as their primary platform for sharing their work with the public, these artists experienced limited personal contact with fellow artists and professionals.

However, the unparalleled opportunity for uninterrupted studio time allowed them to delve deeper into their creative process. Their artistic journeys are now ready to be shared with a wider audience, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the remarkable creations born from this concentrated period of studio introspection.

The exhibitions featured in “Future Past Perfect” are curated by Director and Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater and the Museum’s Bryant-Taylor Curator Ariella Wolens, and capture a renaissance that has emerged within the region, showcasing a burst of emerging talent that has yet to receive widespread recognition.

Featured exhibitions include:

Nathalie Alfonso: LineScape Dusk

Composed of a site-specific installation that will cease to exist following the show’s closure, this ephemeral project is informed by Alfonso’s conceptualization of art-making as a matter of physical endurance, an action-based performance without an audience. As her body engages in the labor of constructing large-scale drawings, which she will create on the surface of the museum walls, the artist’s corporeal engagement with the work becomes part of the art itself.

Alfonso will construct a wall painting spanning the width of a 20-foot wall. Inspired by the vast expanses of Impressionist artist Claude Monet’s Waterlilies series, Alfonso implements a similar exploration of the horizon line, pushing it to the physical limits of the gallery space. The artist’s consideration of line and form is coupled with her new embarkation into the world of color.

Having previously worked primarily in monochrome, Alfonso’s recent work is inspired by the exuberant palette of South Florida’s natural wonder, the Everglades.

Susan Kim Alvarez: Oogly Boogly

Plunging viewers into her wild imagination where cartoon characters and mythological creatures abound in paintings, textiles and sculpture, the exhibition will showcase a series of new large-scale paintings in which a cacophony of surreal figures engulf the pictorial frame, each saturated with flourishes of neon and translucent color.

The artist will also present her tender though ghoulish textile work, Wanna Go On a Date?, 2022, recently purchased by the Museum for its permanent collection, along with an arrangement of mixed-media anthropomorphic sculptures reminiscent of the faces seen by Alice upon her entry into Wonderland.

Joel Gaitan: Muerto Por Una Traición

Joel Gaitan continues to celebrate the synchronization of Miami cultures, religions, and customs. The installation imitates conventional museum displays of pre-Columbian works, but gives them their ability to be the center of attention and challenge hierarchy by foregrounding each of their stories rather than as anthropological artifacts. Some of the themes in the works include the obsession with the idea of being in love and lust, protection and prayer, etymology, offerings, surrogates of people in the artist’s life, and the artists’ love of pop culture.

Gaitan notes that the title of the exhibition, which translates to “death over betrayal,” is a reference to the death of Jesus Christ. It also derives from the lyrics to the song “Aguanile” by Puerto Rican salsa singer Hector Lavoe, and was chosen to honor and celebrate the synchronistic road that the artist follows and his obsession with and fear of death.

Kandy G Lopez: (in)visibility: caché

Consisting of four recently constructed large-scale fiber portraits, each depicting a friend or passerby with a striking sense of presence. Lopez’s exhibition title considers the polysemy of the word caché, primarily focusing on its definition as a person with an intangible (or hidden) sense of commanding presence; in her own words, “Someone who has swagger.” To have caché is to exude a sense of power, however, what lies beneath this is often a desire to be seen in a space where one feels unacknowledged.

Emotions, expectations, and visibility are stored away for the comfort of others, hidden in a caché. Lopez explores the strength, power, confidence, and vulnerability of individuals through a variety of media.

The artist intends for her work to help educate, communicate, and foster discourse around race and racism. Her woven textile portraits are a way for the artist herself to consider her own image as a female Afro-Dominican American, and come to terms with the performed and adopted identities she and others create as a means of survival in today’s society.

Alejandro Piñeiro Bello: Escaping Paradise

Focuses his exhibition, Escaping Paradise, on a painting titled Exodus created on the occasion of his debut museum exhibition at NSU Art Museum. Scaling 19 by 12 feet and spanning three panels, the work is Piñeiro Bello’s largest, most ambitious painting to date.

The work seeks to capture the sensations of color and light under the Cuban Sun. A feeling of heavy heat is conveyed through undulating lines and a psychedelic palette which together form a Surrealist mirage. Exodus invites viewers to contemplate the complex relationship between the allure of paradise and the desire for liberation.

Through these technicolor landscapes, Piñero Bello seeks to commune with his Cuban predecessors, writers and artists such as Julián del Casal, Wifredo Lam and Victor Manuel García Valdés, who synthesized the experimental spirit of the avant-garde with Cuba’s innate cultural identity.

Lulu Sanchez: ADOLFOLAND

Lulu Sanchez creates work inspired by her family’s artistic lineage. Her conceptual focus frequently merges diaristic visual elements with a painterly exploration of color and form. Sanchez’s debut exhibition, ADOLFOLAND sees the artist respond to the work of her late uncle, artist Adolfo Rene Sanchez (b.1957, Camagüey, Cuba; d.1990, Miami, FL), a fixture within New York’s eighties East Village art scene, the epicenter of what came to be known as the New Wave art movement.

Mining the family’s archive, Sanchez located Adolfo’s source material, and artworks left unfinished as he succumbed to a premature death from AIDS-related complications. Appropriating these found images, Lulu Sanchez inserts her own narrative, resulting in the formation of an iconographic palimpsest. In this, Sanchez is not only exploring the makings of her own selfhood, but the innumerable approaches to mimetic representation offered through painting.

The works within this exhibition present a spiritual exchange between two family members, who though they never met, are brought together by their creative force, offering a new legacy to the New Wave.

Zoe Schweiger: Above the Limestone

Zoe Schweiger, High Tide, 2022, Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30 inches
Zoe Schweiger, High Tide, 2022. Purchased with funds provided by Curator Circle. © Zoe Schweiger

Showcasing newly completed works by Schweiger in which the artist emphasizes her vision of a not-too-distant future where her loved ones are submerged under the rising tides of South Florida and made to determine a new everyday existence within a dystopic Atlantis. While Schweiger’s ethereal figures are visually enchanting, the work is a clarion call for audiences to react and prevent this unsurvivable scenario.

Like Miami-based Schweiger, the Museum’s local community must grapple with a potential future in which by 2040, the places we call home may no longer be habitable. The exhibition includes two paintings by Schweiger that were purchased by NSU Art Museum, one of which, High Tide, 2022, was the first purchase at the museum made possible by the museum’s new Curator Circle membership of emerging collectors and arts patrons.

About the Museum

Situated midway between Miami and Palm Beach, NSU Art Museum is located in the heart of Downtown Fort Lauderdale. The Museum is a premier destination for exhibitions and programs encompassing all facets of civilization’s visual history and is widely known for its significant collection of Latin American art, contemporary art with an emphasis on art by Black, Latin American and women artists, as well as works by American artist William Glackens and the European Cobra group of artists.

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