whitehot | December, 2008, Anthony Goicolea @ Sandroni Rey
October 18 - November 15
Continuing to combine several media to express one cohesive and potent viewpoint, Goicolea exhibits his newest body of work entitled Related III at Sandroni Rey. Goicolea often investigates personal issues of identity and for this exhibition he directs this focus particularly on the inspirations regarding dislocation born out of his family’s migration from Cuba to America.
Goicolea’s depiction of scenes dreamlike and deserted using photography, drawing and installation, provide this exhibition with a definitive sense of displacement. Creating drawn portraits of family members, rendered as negative photographs, and surrealistic landscapes Goicolea discusses the relationship between people and their environments - particularly the alienation of individuals or families from their surroundings.
The entire room of works is black and white, which also immediately imbues the exhibition with a nostalgic emotion. But more specifically, when standing in the middle of this room of phantoms, the negative images and fantastical scenes have the viewer feeling that they are within a gap between several realms. At certain times, the work seems to be about the gap between past and present. However at other times the work emotionally expresses the disconnect between where the artist’s physical self is presently, and where his thoughts, origins and metaphysical self reside. As well, many of the scenes exist in the twilight stage between real and unreal, natural and supernatural.
This gap and confusion of positioning puts viewers right where Goicolea intends them to be. In landscape drawings such as Day for Night, although the drawing’s surface is seamless, the perspective and the nature of the structures portrayed appear irrational, due to Goicolea’s piecing together of disparate architectural and landscape elements from Havana. The structures are unrecognizable and illogical spatially. In the background behind some trees is an illustrated constellation in a subjective formation among scrawled crosses in a grid, which are in effect marking empty, negative space. Moving from the foreground, where the architectural elements are photographic and thus strive to be factual, to the background where false constellations and measurements of emptiness are made, the image becomes less and less real.
In two other drawings stark, generic hotels are depicted and the backgrounds are filled with written (or illustrated) records of the lunar calendar, again, scrawled in a grid-like pattern. This astronomy motif creates a contrast between the isolated, disconnected locations in the foreground and the comfort of the familiar and omnipresent sky, stars and moon in the background. However, this contrast is not so binary as the celestial objects are either unfamiliar and supernatural, as they are in Day for Night, or the use of the celestial imagery is anxiety-ridden rather than comforting it its representation of consistency, as is the case in the drawings of hotels where rigorous records are compulsively scrawled, filling the empty space.
Certainly Goicolea’s most explicit example of absence and negativity is found in his ghostly portraits, which seem to lay down the contextual groundwork for the exhibition. The painting that faces viewers from the opposite side of the room as they enter the exhibition space is an illustrated family tree and the largest painting in the room is a diptych comprised of a photograph of a bourgeois family seated at an elegant and festive dinner, with a drawing of the image’s negative beside it. This diptych, entitled Supper, implies the aforementioned split of a being between two places, as family members are represented in one image in their palpable physicality, and in the other in their negativity.
Though it adds to the diversity, the large sculptural installation in the middle of the room has less impact within the exhibition. The installation is composed of a sparse, black line drawing on the floor that references a map or a minimal footprint of a building. Here, Goicolea has the viewer actually standing within his expression of emptiness. Atop the floor drawing lays a low wall of black cinder blocks with glass bottles sitting along the top that seem like cliché representations of a longing to reach out and a loneliness. In the glass bottles are portraits of family members on paper placed to face the outside of the bottles, and all facing one direction so that they function somewhat as paintings. While the inclusion of a physical manifestation of Goicolea’s theme does make the exhibition as a whole a bit more dynamic, the sculptural elements seem flat – conceptually and physically – compared to the richness and depth of the surrounding drawings and photographs. The exhibition is much about positioning, but ironically, the two-dimensional landscapes intrigue one to enter into them much more alluringly than this spatially interactive installation.
The challenges and emotions that accompany migration are at different levels present in all of the works displayed in Related III. In Tunnel, a color print much different in imagery from any other work in the exhibition, a traffic tunnel with water in the extreme foreground is pictured. In this piece the water acts as a barrier, likely referring to the waters Goicolea’s family traversed when coming to America, and in the drawings of hotels and moon calendars, the loneliness of being in a strange environment is effectively expressed.
Though at times Goicolea’s metaphors are somewhat facile, the exhibition proves evocative. At the moments in this exhibition when one feels distanced and cold, as when standing in front of an iconic image of the Riviera Hotel, in front of a soulless picture of an anonymous person or atop the vague footprint of a recognizable structure, Goicolea’s landscapes then reveal themselves as poetic, the hand-made gestural marks in his drawings become noticed, and the poignancy – even if slightly contrived - of placing a message in a bottle is felt, moving the room into the realm of a deep romanticism.
Noah Becker: Editor-in-Chief