Two artists sporting drastically different styles kept drawing me back. Gabriel Orenstein has come up with a technique, identified only as "pigment and water on canvas," that yields mesmerizing results. Because the grainy texture of canvas shows through the washes of dark color, the content of the images seems to be in constant flux; whether they're slowly coming into focus or slowly receding into darkness is hard to say. Boxes within boxes populate these pieces, some generating a sense of unsettling whimsy. In Games, for instance, a tiny clown in the cradle of a slingshot is held by a large, disembodied hand, while in Origin Series two hands hold a box containing a screaming clown's head that owes more than a passing nod to Francis Bacon.
Bacon's influence is also evident in the magnificent Temple: in the half-dozen solemn heads in boxes that run along the bottom of the canvas, in the deep-red bust that sits in a box to the upper left, and certainly in the vague anatomy revealed in the big central box, which could pass for an X-ray or a cutaway view of some alien-human hybrid.
The six untitled acrylics by Silvio Caballero Esteve are as haunting as Orenstein's work, although in a much different way. Esteve works in muted colors and with elaborately drawn compositions that fill the canvases to their bursting points. Tribal in nature, the imagery features ghostly human shapes that don't go much beyond stick figures, along with skulls, birds, and horses. One picture, a simple portrayal of a crucifixion, packs an inexplicable punch.
At the far side of the gallery, a few feet from the dizzying view supplied by the library's sixth-floor windows, is the work of the young Daniel Pontet, who has, perhaps unwittingly, provided a stark reminder of one of the dead-ends of modern art. It's a linked series of pieces dripping with self-satisfaction. Reflection I: The Fine Arts purports to be an "oil on canvas," when it's really just an unprimed, unpainted canvas with the artist's signature on it. Reflection II: Shame is the same, except that the canvas has been reversed to show its wooden frame and metal brackets. Reflection III: The Most Important is nothing but an empty frame, and Reflection IV: Price and Size is a scaled-down version of the first piece, labeled with a $1 tag. Reflection V: from-to is a mixed-media construction, a large "package" covered with stamps, post office labels, and addresses (and the inscription "Art Works Handle With Care"). The silliness and pretentiousness of Pontet's works are compounded by a couple of artist's statements posted nearby.
The cruel irony at work here is that, of all the art in this show crying out for commentary, the most obvious and derivative pieces are the ones that get it. Let's hope the "4th Uruguayan Art Exhibition" is put together with a little more respect and consideration for the audience.
The "3rd Uruguayan Art Exhibition" is on display through September 10 at the Broward County Main Library, Bienes Center For the Literary Arts, Sixth Floor, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-357-7444.