Farley Aguilar Sees Demons in Gothic America

Feb 11, 2016 11:49PM

Farley Aguilar’s ghoulish fever dreams can be disturbingly ambiguous. Set on a polychrome stage, the fabulous faux narratives are terrifyingly confrontational and disquieting yet colored by shades of the preposterous. In “Invisible Country,” a solo show at Spinello Projects in Miami, his expressionistic portraits show a world unsure of its own sanity.

Aguilar, who is based in Miami, creates his arresting technicolor compositions in oil on canvas and ink on mylar. His work often references found antique photographs: seemingly mundane scenes on the street, spontaneous portraits of awkward social settings, or menacing snapshots of advancing mobs in full swing. Aguilar then manipulates the original compositions, transforming them into full-fledged visions of Gothic Americana, through what might be considered a Faux Naïf lens, which intensifies the sinister undertones. The precision of photography melts away into Aguilar’s aggressive ink and oil interventions, turning the contours of faces and bodies into grotesque distortions of their originals.

Often, as in Bat Boy (2016) and The Protest (2015), Aguilar’s portraits concern themselves with a particular archetype, for example, political and religious fanatics. He sometimes further mutilates his figures with graffiti-like addenda: an eye replaced with a hurried “X,” scrawls on a forehead, or ears like a demon.

The figures in Aguilar’s work do not pose so much as confront. They glare, confident in their freakishly rendered faces. Figures huddle together in packs, as in Dark Elves (2015) and The Pack (2016), or stand alone, contrapposto, as in Boy with Flag (2016). Although living in a hellish carnival—one that nevertheless offers weddings and birthday parties—the characters seem unsettlingly comfortable, even polite, in their new version of absurdity.

—Grace-Yvette Gemmell

Farley Aguilar: Invisible Country is on view at Spinello Projects, Miami, Jan. 29–Mar. 29, 2016.

Discover more artists at Spinello Projects.