Thursday, June 26, 2008

Luis Azaceta's Museum Plans





Alfredo Triff*

There is almost nothing in Luis Cruz Azaceta’s Museum Plans, his recent exhibition of mixed media at the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, that makes one think of 1980’s New York. Certainly, there is a path one can follow in Azaceta’s stylistic transformation, from those garish, colorful, idiosyncratic self-portraits, reflecting the Neoexpressionist Geist of the Reagan years, to this more sober, abstract, less iconoclastic, nonetheless thought-provoking work of today. In the mid-1980’s Azaceta appropriated “la balsa” (the raft image), made it his signature and pursued it relentlessly, this is before the raft became “cool” in the art of the Bedias and the K-Chos of the world. It was the right symbol for the times: The decade of Capitalist self-indulgence and excess, solipsism was in the air. Azaceta’s self-depiction was not an excuse for reverberation and self-aggrandizement (Clemente, the Italian painter being a notorious example). Instead, Azaceta made his rafter alter-ego a trademark for revolt and self-definition. What better cipher than the bearded, hirsute looking artist, quixotic, alienated nomad, paddling his way through labyrinthine loops, network crossings, fragile grids and mechanic entrails? Then, toward the mid-1990’s as the mazes got bigger, the rafter got smaller and smaller until it got swallowed by a part-mechanical, part-digital mind-boggling system (it was not a coincidence that Azaceta decided to move to New Orleans). This new work hints at a formal -as well as material- development. At first sight, it has a Douglas Huebler-like architectonic flavor, which can be traced back to Dada (particularly the Duchamp from 1919-1925 or Picabia’s Portraits méchaniques), or even better, a Situationist-like space, but without the hyperpolitics. In our porous, smaller post-Capitalist global village, the X-Cold War exile, becomes an existential/aesthetic rather than a political/semiotic metaphor: Revolt exchanged for suspicion, Kafkian to the core with more questions than answers. “Museum Plans” looks like coded messages being sent between incommensurable paradigm-shifts (The Twentieth and the Twenty First Century). They have an anthropomorphic/topographic quality about them: Figure that Frank Gehry, Luis Kahn, Charles Bukowski, Kafka and Reinaldo Arenas have museum plans -as well as Havana and Miami Beach. In “Museum for Reinaldo Arenas,” we notice a grey and black-colored box-like apparatus with edges painted in red and yellow, showing a little sphere coming out of a conduit on the upper left hand side of the canvas. If this is the body, the green silicon-chip glued on the piece’s axis (next to a tentative sketch), would indicate the Cartesian pineal gland, the center of cogitation. The biomorphic-looking “Museum Plan for Kafka,” hermetic and oppressive, resembles a solid-in-revolt with its silicon chip inside a busily dot-filled colored core surrounded by conical pipes showing little eye-like bulbs. “Air Carrier” is a hybrid between The Space-shuttle and Airbus, populated with tubular inner passages, cul-de-sacs and toy cars, airplanes and helicopters attached onto the painting’s surface. Finally there is “Museum plan for Edison,” sort of an archaic drum brake-like mechanism: Three coils, one upside down, connect to a crankcase through an internal passage going all the way inside the apparatus’ brain. Aside from the obvious Dada connection, Azaceta’s rhizome-like cerebral sketches remind me of Warren Chalk and Peter Cook’s mid-1960’s drawings for Archigram, an association which in both instances, point to moments of bafflement, instrospection and curiosity.
______________________________
Originally written for Code. Images courtesy of Bernice Steinbaum Gallery.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Esta bueno saber que Azceta ya dejo las balsas. El que no cambia se estanca.
E.

Anonymous said...

Dense una vueltecita a verme. Recuerden que también fuicasi cubano, como el seudobalsero este.
Francis Picabia

http://oseculoprodigioso.blogspot.com/2005/06/picabia-francis-dadasmo-surrealismo.html

Soy feminista said...

Triff: I didn't see that show at Bernice but I had been a little put off by some of those images. So, it's good you put it in context. Wthat I think needs more explaning is the situationist part.

Anonymous said...

Honestamente no me parece de lo mejor de Azaseta.
Pintor balsero

López-Ramos said...

Muy refreshing esta nueva serie de Azaceta. Es cierto que los autorretratos balseros ya estaban un poco agotados -por cierto, no pondría en relación de contigüidad a Bedia y Kcho. Hay balsas y balsas. Antes de esto hizo otra serie totalmente abstracta que me cuadró bastante, unos círculos hirstianos en los que mezclaba todo tipo de pinturas, hasta esmalte industrial.

Sería interesante una colaboración entre Fornés y Azaceta para convertir estos cuadros en proyectos de edificios de museo reales. Yo quiero el mío en Lejune y la 8, North-East corner.

A.T. said...

Merci, Picabia. Me gusta tu blog.

Gracias Feminista. How about another post to explain the Situationist connection?

RLR, tienes razOn, no son las mismas balsas las de Bedia y K-Cho (aunque el Ultimo se gane la vida con eso). Tu segundo punto es genial. Hay que hablar con Raffaelo a ver quE piensa del asunto.

Luise W. said...

Alfredo,
Thanks for sending the link. This is a very nice page. Azaceta's work keeps changing, but it looks surprisingly fresh. I find his work more interesting than lots of other stuff being done nowadays.

Anonymous said...

Traduccion please

Sir.nuda said...

anonymous, Inglé sin barrera pa´ti...

raffaello said...

rafa el museo sera en la casa pompeiana verdad?

casas-galerias...(mosquera's ortodontics)
casas-balsas...
y las brigadas culturales!
se debe exportar el arte de miami

visiten studiesoflahabana
con una version del video MIAMI E VENEZIA

Anonymous said...

alfredo: cool take.

D.

Anonymous said...

Prefiero a Azaceta a Bedia.
Gerardo Mascara-

JR said...

¿Sinónimo de Luis Cruz Azaceta? Muy fácil, man. MAESTRO. Y no hay más que hablar.

Nilo said...

En el recodo de uno de esos tubos veo una rarísima conexión entre conversiones estilísitcas paralelas: Azaceta-Carlos Cardenas. ¿Me siguen?
Siguiendo la línea de desenvolvimiento del blog de hoy, veo a Azaceta en la Far Gallery muy pronto.Para unos esto sería buena noticia, mala para otros.Y siempre hay a quien le da igual.

A.T. said...

LW: Welcome to tumiami.

Raffaelo, no es mala idea. Hay que darle cabeza al asunto. Buen punto por Nilo.

Gracias para David.

Anonymous said...

El tema balsa se quedo atras como arte porque se hizo un tema manido.

Luise W. said...

Alfredo: Try coming to our opening next week. It should be fun.

Adal said...

por que los cubanos tenemos (yo me excluyo, ya que soy ciudadano palomense) que buscarle el parecer de una obra a otra? lo encuentro tan ignorante y me llega a dar verguenza que eso ocurra entre ustedes (los ciudadanos palomenses nunca se dedicaron a eso)

rafael, estas super claro y le has dado al clavo en el moropo.

jesusito, no puedo estar mas de acuerdo contigo en este caso. debes agregarlo a tu lista de menciones de los pre. tambien maria brito, arturo rodrigues, pablo cano, miñuca villaverde, demi, un muchacho del colegio belen que hacia las meminas de velazquez a su manera, fernando garcia, conceptualista, el fotografo ramon guerrero las abstracciones de bencomo y baruj salinas (cubano-judio) se que me falta alguien que exibio junto a nam jum pike y quien su trabajo fue exibido en el festival de cine de cartagena colombia (side bar experimental films) y hasta en el tokyo film festival...hmmmmmmm?

Luise W. said...

mcmc

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