Brooklyn-based artist Vargas-Suarez Universal (V-SU) explores the myriad systems structuring information in our world. He calls upon different branches of knowledge like architecture, physics, astronomy, history, and music to inspire his artwork—large-scale murals and installations, and more recently, sound and film. In understanding the organizing principles used within these disciplines, V-SU pushes art further, and research comes first. He’s analyzed blueprints, geological survey maps, satellite photographs, on-site studies of airports and libraries, and interviews with NASA scientists and doctors. The artist grew up in a Houston suburb close to the Johnson Space Center and studied art history and astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin.
In addition to his fantastic mural, Lava Vectors, on view now at IFAC Arts in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, V-SU was recently featured in “COSMOS CODEX” at MACLA in San Jose. There he showed a collaborative film piece, Landing Sites & Beyond, for which he also composed the soundtrack. Other works in the show also engaged in this aerospace dialogue, including Thermal Vectors V, (2013), and Thermal Vectors VI (2013), paintings composed of oil enamel and solar cells, and El Dorado: Diamond III (2010), a painting on a vacuumized aluminum thermal blanket. For the exhibition, V-SU interviewed NASA experts on topics such as Mars and asteroids, and studied other aeronautical sources, including spacecraft engineering guides, images taken from helmet cameras used on spacewalks, and Earth observation video. The exhibition design for “COSMOS CODEX” was inspired by scientific cleanrooms, drawing an interesting parallel between hermetic scientific research spaces and the sanctified “white cube” gallery space.
While many consider art and science to be opposing disciplines, with differing camps of thought and perspective, V-SU shows where they intersect, overlap, and complement each other. Despite the esoteric research and technical material he utilizes in his work, for the artist, art making is ultimately an organic, tactile experience: “I like the meditative aspect of taking something very highly advanced like ‘visualization technology’ and bringing it down to a meditative process, to daily activity, to painting.”