Alternate Pathways’s opening reception took place yesterday at the Union TX with a turn out of over a hundred people in attendance. Alternate Pathways is an exhibition co-organized and co-curated by Karen Navarro and Luisa Duarte. It is funded in part by the City Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs through Houston Arts Alliance. And, it’s a sponsored project of Fresh Arts, a non-profit arts service organization.
Surpassing Limits through Alternate Pathways by Surpik Angelini. (excerpt)
For the first round, Navarro and Duarte invited a mixed media artist, Celan Bouillet; a painter of sculptural shaped canvases, Eduardo Portillo; and an artist and illustrator Hedwige Jacobs to join them in this project, thus bringing together representatives from three countries as distant and different from theirs as the US, El Salvador and The Netherlands.
Beyond the issues of “displacement, attachment to place, imaginary homelands, place making, the construction of identity and belonging,” which the group identified as a common ground, I believe that the way they surpassed the limits of the Modernist aesthetic inherited from the past, seems to speak to a grander scheme of things, while it also underlies their work in more significant ways.
Surpassing limits rather than simply choosing alternate pathways may seem inconsequential at first, but in my mind it helps focus our attention to how the artists have responded to two opposing forces impacting the development of contemporary art in the last twenty-five years. Globalization alone fostered an intense traffic of culture from the First World to developing countries, or simply from centers to peripheries, carrying with it, in all instances and everywhere, the imposition of Modernism as a lingua franca in the arts. The second force shaping the art of our times is a phenomena called “the ethnographic turn” since the 90”s, which injected local flavor, subjective specificity, and more importantly, a meaningful historical and cultural contextualization of the art produced in different parts of the world. The result of these two seminal forces is that most contemporary works today embody artists’ own micro narratives which counteract the master narrative prevalent in Modernist forms of expression. Therefore, with this framework in mind, I would like to address how each one of the artists in the present exhibition contests the inherited Modernist cannon in their own art.
To make images appear and disappear, to simulate and dissimulate visual effects through constructive and deconstructive methods would describe Karen Navarro’s artistic process. Her departure from stereotypical photographic portraits of her subjects is rendered by cutting and reassembling their facial features, intervening them with superimposed geometric matrixes. Her deconstructive methods make images almost unrecognizable, reaching invisibility at times. Navarro’s work implies that identity is in fact a social construct, as she parodies the digitally deforming effects of apps like Snap Chat, face changer, faceapp, all of which fulfill the growing need of people to be recognized, or to be accepted in a certain social category, symbolized by their obsessive use of hash tags.”