For PULSE Miami Beach 2014, De Buck Gallery brings together two artists who remind us of the tenacious effects of past conflicts and their attendant iconographies. In drawings, sculptures, and paintings, San Salvador-based Simón Vega and Berlin-based XOOOOX incorporate and evolve charged references associated with the political and social histories that shaped their communities—and international culture at large.
For his part, Vega (who was featured in 2013 Venice Biennale’s Latin American Pavilion) takes up the political jockeying and utopian ideals associated with the Cold War and its aftermath. As part of his extended “Tropical Mercury Capsule” series, Vega makes drawings and sculptures that propose contemporary (or are they post-apocalyptic?) adaptations of Project Mercury, the famous Space Race rocket that was NASA’s first vessel to bring an American into space. Built from detritus found on city streets—of favelas in particular—his sculptures become colorful, jerry-rigged survival pods for a future where individual subsistence feels more important than imperial one-upping. Tropical Mercury Capsule (2010), one of Vega’s first works in the series, a to-scale representation of a space capsule made of wood and tin roofing sheets—complete with a television, icebox, stereo, and car seat—was recently purchased by the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM).
XOOOOX, the German artist whose body of work also includes a street art practice that extends across walls in Berlin, Paris, Milan, and beyond, contributes oil paintings that fuse all-over abstraction with gesture reminiscent of graffiti. Covered in fingerprints, floating words, and frenetic lines, the canvases probe the tension between opposites like oppression and autonomy, high and low culture, and abstraction and representation. The works are also tied to the fraught history of the Berlin Wall and recall the notorious barrier’s secondary role as a soapbox for free speech—it was famously covered in layers of spray paint and expressive scrawl.