by Shana Beth Mason
There is a small contingency of artists raised and educated in Miami who maintain active practices (nationally and internationally-recognized ones, at that) within the metropolis itself. These few are the nucleus of the contemporary art world here; they inspire and encourage artists from within and without to utilize and relish the conducive environment for creative production, largely free of the breakneck competition of markets like New York, London, Berlin or Paris. One of these artists is Felecia Chizuko Carlisle.
Born in Pensacola in 1972, Carlisle received her MFA from the New Genres Department at the San Francisco Art Institute. To date, her work has shown at venues in 25 cities in four countries (including Germany, India and Spain) and remains in the permanent collection of the Margulies Collection in Miami. Her latest solo exhibition with Dorsch Gallery in Wynwood, Façade, is another step in her practical evolution: one which marries a longstanding interest in geometric forms with a newer experimentation with mirrored acrylic sheets and light refractions in space.
At the front of the massive 3,600 square-foot gallery space, Carlisle's sculptures appear to be warped onto walls and bent over a central table. Images of architectural elements rendered with bluish hues (the exteriors of stairwells, window panelling and their own reflections into natural space and onto themselves) are laid directly onto the acrylic sheeting. In a darkened, adjacent room, a projector throws artificial light onto another photographed image creating the illusion of a three-dimensional mobile hanging in a corner (one might recall Olafur Eliasson's work, but this incorporates photography into the corpus of the sculptural object). Carlisle wields quiet control over the images and their inherent malleability manipulating them into double façades; the first being the architecture itself, the second being the acrylic sheet medium harboring the image. As a bonus, the results are equally challenging and attractive, inhabiting the slim area between a hardened intellectual exercise and a lyrical artwork capable of inhabiting an intimate living space.
Carlisle has a particular talent for appropriating existing visual content into radically different contexts and platforms. Her previous project I Saw Three Cities includes handmade sketches of natural foliage and environments in Miami, a sculpture resembling an upside-down xylophone lit with bright pink bulbs at their ends towards the floor, and a haunting YouTube video of fuschia-uniformed, female Chinese soldiers marching in perfect unison framed with a hot pink box over the center screen (titled ‘PinkArmy/PinkRectangle’). Façade reveals even more of Carlisle's down-to-the-millimeter attention to detail and craftsmanship, as each work heavily relies on the cleanliness and clarity of its physical components; all the while, the collection is infused with a hint of postmodern unease and metaphoric suspicion. The word, itself, means 'frontage' or 'face', with an emphasis on cheapness relating to film sets and scaffold covers. Carlisle doesn't necessarily imply that the surfaces she references are badly designed or poorly manufactured. On the contrary, their smooth, factory-grade surfaces suggest something creeping underneath, almost too perfect to take for truth.
Shana Beth Mason is a critic formerly based in Brooklyn now active in London, UK. Contributions include Art in America, ArtVoices Magazine, FlashArt International, InstallationMag (Los Angeles), Kunstforum.as (Oslo), The Brooklyn Rail, The Miami Rail, San Francisco Arts Quarterly (SFAQ), and thisistomorrow.info (London).
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