barriococo: a sculpture show (2014)

November 1 – November 29, 2014 — RSOAA (Brooklyn, NY)

Participating Artists: David Antonio Cruz, Matias Labbé, Fernando Mastrangelo, Irvin Morazán (NKA Guadalupe Maravilla), Marela Zacarias, and AMMA Studio.

barriococo is an exhibition at The Royal Society of American Art that brings together five artists and one design collaborative that focus on sculpture as their primary medium or as part of their interdisciplinary practices. A portmanteau of the terms 'barrio' and 'rococo,' each artist explores territory that exists between an urban reality and a Northern European tradition of elaborate, ornamental work. Within this style of making and its history of decorative use, 18th-Century rococo artists cast their work as a critique against the more rigid impositions and symmetry of the early Baroque.

The intentional use of this Northern European terminology allows the artists to question the obscuring of different histories. The works in this exhibition, with their embedded signs and signifiers of Pre-Columbian histories and distinctly American origins from the broader continent, challenge and expand the notion of "American Art," while raising questions about the lineage of the decorative arts at hand. In barriococo, all of the artists reuse and redeploy materials linked to the everyday, with a seductive quality that draws one into the details, which unfold into other realizations and challenges for the viewer.

David Antonio Cruz’s sculptures incorporate shattered china-reconfigured and reassembled-copper leaf, enamel, and other materials that accumulate into these exploded domestic objects. Embedded in his works, you can find books and photos that relate back to historical and personal detritus. Also on display is David’s new book, which is a direct copy of the artist’s script created for the The Opera Performance rehearsals. The Opera Performance was a commission for El Museo del Barrio with additional funds courtesy of Franklin Furnace Funds. It was a live performance that recreated the multi-layered audio from Cruz’s video work TAKEABITE;elduendealwaystravels…light and was a part of Performa 13. The work of Matías Labbé aims to make visible the relationships of borders and material hierarchies in attempt to activate metaphors over the mutual dependence between the economy and the materials it supplies. He pushes the tension between mediums and systems whose manner of functioning operate in a sort of dialog, opening questions about modes of production that exist in processes like recycling, traffic, and the relationship with one’s surroundings and environment. His Proliferations act like invading species of weeds that situate themselves in relation to given architecture, and overtake it.

Fernando Mastrangelo’s Medallion series is an extension of his work Avarice in the Brooklyn Museum’s collection. The medallions incorporate different foodstuffs in different juxtapositions to activate his designs, which recall the detailed light fixtures of classic New York homes, taken out of context and arranged for a head-on perspective. Irvin Morazán’s Coyote-yoga tiger is comprised of materials like coconuts, novelty watches, stuffed animals, and a real jawbone, among other materials. The disfigured entity is at once ferocious and entirely benign, like a dismembered and neutered Wile E. Coyote.

The title of Marela Zacarias’s piece Hadar refers to Beta Centauri, the Southern Pointer Star, which cannot be seen from the continental United States, except briefly in the southernmost areas—it is specifically a sight unique to the global south. Additionally, the 11th brightest star is, in fact, three stars, which we cannot see from our perspective on Earth. It is elusive and shifting, much like Marela’s sculptures, which appear to be fabric or textile constructions that undulate and warp, rather than the common hardware store materials from which they are constructed. Finally, the work of AMMA Studio, the Coffee Coffee Table is just that…a masterful construction of a functional coffee table made from the very material in its name. Its use to exhibit other artists’ works complements the installation, but it also stands as an artwork on its own, attracting the eye with its organic forms and the nose with its fragrant smells.