Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to announce a new exhibition of charcoal drawings by the Colombian-born, Miami-based artist Gonzalo Fuenmayor. His 2013 début show at DCG garnered critical raves for its deft exploration of culture clash and hybrid mashup, reflecting the artist’s concerns since 1998, when he moved to the U.S. to attend art school. In New York, he became so conscious of his outsider status that, in what he calls an attempt at ‘self-exoticization’—becoming defiantly Colombian—he made so many drawings of tone of his country’s chief exports—one with a tragic colonialist history— that fellow students dubbed him “the banana man.” The eclectic mixing of cultures by Fuenmayor and other immigrants has become more common in the intervening years, as demographic change has darkened the composite national complexion. The works from the show three years ago, They Say I Came Back Americanized (its title borrowed from the Latina actress Carmen Miranda) could thus be considered prophetic. Certainly Fuenmayor’s combination of ethnic pride, cultural/political criticism, and stunning drawing struck a chord with satire-simpatico critics. Alison McCarthy wrote in 7x7:
"Rococo chandeliers hanging from banana bunches, disco balls amidst palm trees, and exploding headdresses of flamingoes and flowers … all culminate in an extravagance rooted in both reality and imagination. It's eye candy with serious heft."
DeWitt Cheng wrote in ArtLtd:
"The artist differs … from earlier political artists like Siqueiros (with whom he shares a dark, dramatic style) by ironically juxtaposing clichéd aspects of [indigenous] tropical culture... with [forcibly imposed European] Rococo and Victorian style elements.”
Fuenmayor’s new work, entitled Picturesque, continues to explore the complicated warp and weft of nature and culture as colonial European culture combines with colonized Third World nature:
"The work has grown both in scale and complexity; the subject matter remains the same (exploration of exoticism, the constant negotiation of identity-heritage, dislocation), but in this case I’ve been focused more in creating tensions with odd/absurd architectural hybrids and questioning the manner in which tropical culture is contextualized…. I’ve been using the image of the pool - symbol of suburban (tropical?) life with 17-18th century architectural paraphernalia… The pool as a token of status, juxtaposed with the opulence/splendor associated to a Victorian era."
Fuenmayor has modified the general concept of his new drawings, replacing the Surrealist shock of anachronistic elements, fused into funny and disturbing hybrids, with the creation of “dramatic/atmospheric scenarios.” The new “dry-pigment paintings” resemble mysterious stage sets, while the older works tended toward depictions of bizarre sculpture. His pair pf armchairs violently pierced by a palm tree trunk has the dark power of a Caravaggio, while a grand palatial salon, replete with gilded frames, velvet draperies and lion-legged armchairs, the whole chamber as dramatically illuminated as any film noir stage set, serves to frame an empty swimming pool built as if to resemble a coffered Versailles ceiling, upside down. As life has become increasingly surreal, the ‘new normal’ may be unprecedentedly odd. Fuenmayor:
"The idea of an empty pool somehow echoes those vast empty Victorian Palaces [from earlier work] ….[e]mpty, desolate, mysterious…. [F]or me, performance/ the stage/ theatricality is very important when thinking about the drawings. The pool—symbol of tropicalia—serves as a stage within these absurd spaces…. Somehow I believe it speaks about being in Florida for over 8 years now..."
As well as a traditional status symbol (in a state now threatened by rising seas), the swimming pool—filled, that is—is a modern version of the pond, or, even the primordial sea, while water in Freudian thought symbolizes the dark, unruly subconscious. Fuenmayor’s pools are empty of both water and users, and thus lifeless—”absurd.” An early defender of the Flemish visionary Hieronymus Bosch asserted that that pious fifteenth-century artist depicted man as he is, and not as how enlightened sixteenth-century intellectuals conceive him to be. Picturesque shows, in metaphoric form, the modern world as it is, beneath the socioeconomic myth that “he who dies with the most toys wins”; irrational, topsy-turvy, and arid. Fuenmayor powerfully combines the sometimes clashing cultures of Surrealism and social criticism.
Gonzalo Fuenmayor was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, in 1977, and currently lives and works in Miami, Florida. He earned his BFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York in 2000 and his MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2004. Fuenmayor has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and fellowships and exhibited across North and South America, including a 2014 residency at the Bemis Center in Omaha, NE and a 2015 solo exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This will be his second solo exhibition at the Dolby Chadwick Gallery.