How Contemporary Colombian Artists Use Water to Explore Time and Space

Graphite drawings of lambs, wolves, and skunks intermix with striking underwater photographs and dreamy lightbox installations at Beatriz Esguerra Art’s presentation at Art Wynwood 2015. A varied selection of works by contemporary Colombian artists Carolina Convers, Anibal Gomescasseres, Carlos Alarcón, Daniela Mejia, Mario Arroyave, and Max Steven Grossman, as well as Juan Carlos Rivero-Cintra (who was born and raised in Cuba but is now based in Colombia) revolves around the theme “Water.”

In his series “Light Atmospheres,” Anibal Gomescasseres sets photographic images aglow with rectangular lightboxes. His approach to light as both a subject and medium, interest in spatial perception, and employment of a minimalist color palette recall the sensibility of James Turrell. Colors like teal, fuchsia, and indigo illuminate attractive, zen-like environments: a pool, a moonlit mountain range, and a bare room. With the flick of a light, water splashes and clouds materialize. These small visual shifts suggest the passing of time or the intervention of a person into the scene, even though Gomescasseres’s environments are devoid of people.

In contrast to Gomescasseres, Mario Arroyave gravitates towards spaces well-populated with people. In one diptych Arroyave visits a pool and takes his lens underwater, capturing a cluster of people in motion. The title of the work—Timeline—Underwater Rugby (Dyptich) (2015)—makes the land-based sport of rugby a key reference point. Details like an outstretched arm or a swim fin-clad leg read as chaotic in each photograph, but when juxtaposed with an image of the same scene upside down, all the details suddenly seem harmonious. Timeline—Waterpolo (2014) shows a similarly busy scene, but with an interesting departure point: shot outside a pool and from an aerial perspective. In both of these works the human body is celebrated as a sculptural form and the repetition of that form is used as “a metaphor for time and space,” as he says.

Not all works on display at Beatriz Esguerra Art depict aqueous environments. A drawing by Carlos Alarcón entitled Par/Adox 15 (Skunk/perfume) (2015), for instance, juxtaposes a sprightly skunk with a bottle of Chanel No. 5. In terms of scale, Alarcón’s approach is cheeky: the name-brand perfume bottle looms large, and by comparison the skunk seems pitifully small. These disparate subjects are united by a strong olfactory connotation—the perfume as attractive and the skunk as repulsive. When viewed alongside a photograph of swimmers or an illuminated pool scene, Alarcón’s drawings seem especially abstract in their relation to the show’s theme.

Whether rendered in graphite, digital pixels, oil paint, or light, water emerges as a central motif in these works. Most poignantly, the element is used to explore how we experience the passage of time and expansion into space.

Anna Furman

Visit Beatriz Esguerra Art at Art Wynwood 2015, Booth B42, Feb. 12–16, 2015.

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