Much of my artistic work would probably exist in a category I would term, “found, living, social re-installations,” comprised of testimonies, created enunciative (at times, denunciative) spaces containing objects, or collections thereof, conjured by collective grief coupled with hope.
In my socially derived allegories and nominal commentaries, language in all its forms occupies a central space, and fragments of the real world—memory, community, history, and collective social gestures—are reflected and contextualized along several levels using various materials.
The natural poetry of human existence and its discourses has catalyzed the visualizing and creation of these re-installations—poeticized languages unto themselves that question conventional meanings by granting expression to what had previously been silenced or veiled by the main cultural discourse.
I have used a variety of media—sculpture, text, sound, video, spiritual phenomena, and found objects—in creating these “spaces of criticism,” where different ways of being, acting, perceiving, or thinking seep, and, sometimes, flood in to bind others into a discovered simultaneity of pro-social thought and feeling, or, more conductive, into the wider social discourse.
In the re-installation HANDS UP! , composed of vintage back scratchers collected from various sources. The back scratchers range from the more common bamboo segments to the seemingly arbitrary images of anything and everything—from sharks and donkeys to dead animal paws and tennis rackets. Typically hung upside down, the back scratcher here is installed upright, in order to subvert the benign association with the tool. The title references the cries of protesters following the failure to indict police officers in Ferguson and New York City for the murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and other victims of police brutality. Echoing the upended position of the back scratchers, the artwork suggests that those in a position to serve and protect have turned their duties on their heads.
My re-installation, Readings of Saliva, Sweat and Tears, explores the societal upheavals in Venezuela via the exchanging of life-eroded pillows found in orphanages throughout Caracas for fresh, crisp, new ones. While the new pillows were providing new comfort to the orphans, the worn found pillows were displaced to a Santero (Spanish for “saint-maker”), a Santerían religious artisan-priest, who would interpret them by “reading” their contours, stains, and indentations—the silent testimonies to the rough, nocturnal existence of the same discarded children who had once laid their heads on them. The interpreted pillows were amassed into a site-specific installation with an audio player embedded into each so that viewer-listeners can, by placing their ear as close to each pillow as the orphans once had and listening to the Santero’s recorded reading, experience through sound and touch their abysmal conditions.
By transposing the testimony of abandoned human beings left to the parentless discomforts of an orphanage into the language of those whose spiritual magic often clashes with the modern, material world, Readings of Saliva, Sweat, and Tears portrays a critical view of a Venezuelan society that has bonded symbolic regressions with self-fulfilling tragedy. Both Venezuelan orphanages and Santería suffer the effects of a society, a country, and a texturized existence propelled by a “sophisticated barbarism” in which violence and annulment proliferate. The piece’s unique method, composition, and sound uneasily depict the genesis and dimension of the unspeakable across multiple modalities.
Another social re-installation, Flossers, articulates broken and discarded mannequin hands onto the gallery wall using dental floss to bind and hang them into shapes and gestures. Through their posed expression, they become simulacra of appendages “hanging on by a thread.” Here, hygienic and orthopedic language struggles to express through inert hands, incapable of touch, gesture, or feeling. Their very nature endangers them as their “flesh” attempts to construct devoid of human impulse. Flossers explores gestural and emotional muteness by rendering once-sturdy-and-expressive human-driven prosthesis into a language at semantic risk.
These works probe society to reveal the maladies deriving from the human condition, question the societal forces that lead to them, reflect the ravages that even a “normal” society, willingly or unwillingly, imposes on its members will and expression—and, in the best case, prod the viewer to pay more attention.
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, 1973
Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York
Metropolitan University, Caracas, Venezuela, M.S., Civil Engineering
Res Pretiosas , Metales Pesados Gallery, Santiago, Chile
White over white, curated by Juan Puntes, Theredoom Gallery, Madrid, Spain
Mamas operadas por mi Papá y pintadas por mi Mamá, Carmen Araujo Gallery, Caracas, Venezuela
Hasta la Fecha, curated by Ruth Estevez , Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, D.F. Mexico
Selected Group Exhibitions
Rotative repository of Latin American cinema: mono canal, curated by Hernan Rivera Luque, Museo del Barrio, New York
Veintitrés ensayos en tiempo real, curated by Sandra Pinardi, Ateneo de Maracaibo, Venezuela
Story of a Story, curated by Shlomit Dror, Smack Melon, Brooklyn, NY
Carribean : Crossroads of the World, Perez Art Museum, curated by Elvis Fuentes, Miami, USA
Bienal de Sao Paulo en Caracas, Hacienda Cultural la Trinidad, curated by Carmen Araujo, Caracas, Venezuela
Caribbean : Crossroads of the World, Queens Museum of Art, curated by Elvis Fuentes, New York, USA
XXX Sao Paulo Bienale, curated by Luis Oramas, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Monturiol updated, curated by Ruth Estevez and Sarah Demeuse, ESPAI, Barcelona, Spain
ARTEBA Art Fair, curated by Gabriela Rangel, Buenos Aires, Argentina
De Frente al Sol, Martin Janda Gallery, curated by Patrick Charpenel, Vienna, Austria
Art Videotheque, Miami-Basel Art Fair
Los de Arriba y los de Abajo, Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros, curated by Javier Tellez, Mexico City, Mexico
Space is the Place, Newman Popiashvilli Gallery, curated by Javier Tellez, New York, New York, USA
Teleprompter, Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
S Files, Museo del Barrio, curated by Deborah Cullen and Elvis Fuentes, New York, New York, USA
Arte Agora, Instituto Cervantes, curated by Elvis Fuentes, New York, New York, USA
Destino: Video Caribeno, Centro Cultural San Martin, curated by Elvis Fuentes, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Destino: Video Caribeno, Fundación de Arte Contemporáneo, curated by Elvis Fuentes, Montevideo, Uruguay
Jovenes con Fia, Ibero-American Art Fair, Caracas, Venezuela
Rewind…Rewind…, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, curated by Elvis Fuentes, San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Studio Visit, Exit Art, curated by Papo Colo and Jeanette Ingberman, New York, New York, USA
Traffic, Exit Art, curated by Papo Colo and Jeanette Ingberman, New York, New York, USA
L Factor, Exit Art, curated by Papo Colo and Jeanette Ingberman, New York, New York
AIM Program Exhibition, Bronx Museum of the Arts, curated by Lydia Yee and Amy Rosenblum-Martin, Bronx, New York, USA
Queens International, Queens Museum of Art, curated by Hitomi Iwasaki, Queens, New York, USA
Residenties and Fellowships
AIM Program, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York
Foundation Armando Alvares Penteado, Sao Paulo , Brazil
Dan Jakubowski, “Rotative Repository of Latin American Video Art: Mono Canal“, Art Forum, March, 2017
Benjamin Sutton, “Dissecting and Detecting Stories in Found Objects and Remnants”, Hyperallergic , July, 2015
Camila Molina, “Sao Paulo Biennial”, Art in America, January, 2013
Demeuse, Sarah and Estevez, Ruth, “Monturiol updated”, Exhibition Catalog, ESPAI, Barcelona, Spain
Estevez Ruth, “Hasta la Fecha”, Exhibition Catalog, Museum Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, Mexico
Rosenberg, Karen, “Art Review: Space is the Place”, The New York Times, July 17th, 2009, p. C25
Chura, Nathaneal, “Tennis is a White Box”, Tennis Week, July 2009
Schwendener, Martha, “Art Review: A Latino Biennial That Bucks a Global Trend,” The New York
Times, August 31 , 2007, p. E28
Smith, Roberta, “Art Review: The Studio Visit”, The New York Times, February 24, 2006, p. E40
Boucher, Brian, “Art fragments from the big: AIM 23 The Bronx Museum of the Arts”, Flash Art International, October 2003, #232
Cotter, Holland, “A New Latino Essence, Remixed and Redistilled”, Holland Cotter, The New
York Times, November 28, 2003, p. E41
Levin, Kevin, “Group Portrait”, The Village Voice, December 19, 2003, p. 84
Johnson, Ken, “A Pluralist Exhibition in the Plural Borough”, The New York Times, August 23, 2002, p. E1