Artist and arts impresario Rolando Chang Barrero has another lively show opening this weekend at his Boynton Beach exhibition space, ActivistArtistA Gallery. (Un)Common Traces is a fresh effort by four artists from Dwelling Projects, a Dade County artists' collective.
Just two years along, Dwelling Projects grew out of the arts program at Florida International University, holding early shows in private homes and other unorthodox spaces. The group is floating and elastic, with as many as two dozen adherents at one point, all from Latin American backgrounds. Four of the group's members have come to Barrero's venue to reflect on their recent visit to Ecuador, where they spent 4 weeks immersed in the Andean nation's artistry and culture.
Spread throughout three bays of Barrero's compound -- a complex of industrial storage and workspaces -- the show involves photography, video, pen-and-ink, watercolor, charcoal, fiber, and assemblage.
A bay labeled "Ephemera" offers the most direct documentation of the artists' Ecuadorean experience. The group collaborated on a totem of travelers' gear -- shoes and hiking gear arranged in a shrine on the floor, serapes and jackets on the walls above it. Along another wall is a half dozen delicacies by Sofia Bastidas: five deft pen-and-ink portraits ("curanderos," she says) with daubs of watercolor, one glorious watercolor of plant forms as a nude; an installation/benediction of dried plant life hangs from the ceiling. Two walls of photography are from the four artists' stay at a private home in the highlands and their time at La Factoria, an ecologically aware craft and design center on the Pacific coast, where they absorbed the methods of local artisans and employed them to make field installations.
A second bay, unnamed, contains three pieces. Photography and video by Andres Ramirez is moody and plaintive, images of Ecuador's figures, objects, seas and spaces. A mixed media installation by Eddy Peñafiel is a very clever 3-D pun on "hunt-and-peck" typewriting.
A full other bay is taken up by an untitled installation by Nathalie Alfonso. Immense spools of burlap are draped from the space's ceiling and uncoiled across the floor, with a long stretch of charcoal markings on paper along three walls, at shoulder level.
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The burlap is sumptuous and engulfing, like the bags of commodities on which much of the Ecuadorian economy relies. The wall markings, threatening encirclement, mimic the motions of housecleaning, the work Alfonso does to support herself. By design, Alfonso toiled five virtually non-stop days in the room, to the point of exhaustion. The piece -- thoughtful, imposing, provocative -- is "about labor," she told us.
(Un)Common Traces, Friday, October 4 - Friday Oct. 25, at ActivistArtistA Gallery/Studio, 422 West Industrial Ave., Boynton Beach.
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