Cuban artist Francis Acea
uses his art as a tool to comment upon the way we, as humans, put value
on the things around us, and the unintended, often negative impact those
decisions can have on the world around us.
In his latest show, “Black Diamonds
,” on view at New
York’s Merton D. Simpson Gallery
, Acea presents two
series of graphic, street-style reminiscent paintings that depict the very
things we value most: gold, diamonds, and the human mind. In the show, like
many at the gallery, these new works are placed alongside unique objects from
indigenous cultures within the African Diaspora, creating a cross-cultural dialogue
through time that takes on a long view of the commodification of culture.
In his “Gold Matter” paintings, Acea takes the
familiar iconography of the human brain and transforms it into a luxe
commodity, as cross sections of cerebellum are presented as abstracted acrylic forms in glittering metallic gold paint. By casting an
image associated with human consciousness in the trappings of human greed, Acea
begs viewers to ask themselves how far they are willing to be seduced by
symbols of wealth and status. What, exactly do we value most?
The other works in the show, part of the “Black
Diamond” series, explore a different type of luxury object: the elusive
Carbonado, or black diamond. Executed in detailed black-on-black in the style
of a gemologist’s diagram for valuing a stone, here Acea’s subject matter is
one of the toughest, rarest materials known to man, believed by some to have
extraterrestrial origins, a mythology that’s referenced by nearby objects from
the Malian Dogon tribe, one of the first groups of people to study the night
sky. Impossible to make, only to be found, these minerals call to mind darker
realities of blood diamonds, the ways we strip the earth of the very things we
most desire from it, and human suffering in the pursuit of wealth.