Guerra de la Paz: Power Ties
Julian Navarro Projects, Long Island City, New York
November 3 - December 15, 2012
Guerra de la Paz loudly criticizes societal apathy while simultaneously expressing a tacit consent to hegemonic power. In contrast to the more pervasive contemporary artists who playfully present motif drenched in satire, this two-person collective from Miami gives us a very intense, literal read. Guerra de la Paz’s exhibition Power Ties illuminates corporate humanity through tight aesthetics and visual language and reminds us how much we can gain by viewing Cuban art in the context of diaspora.
Power Ties holds installation and sculpture in the round comprised of found objects and commodity twisted and propped against an empty core. Many of the sculptures depict faceless human forms, life-sized, with serpent heads or masks. The collective’s “vapid” motif frequents the exhibition representing hollow infatuation of the powerful elite as commodity goods. The sculptures, twisting and bending together, provide a truly immersive experience for the audience, inviting the viewer inside both the piece itself as well as its meaning. They interact with each other to form a brightly-lit environment in which the audience can walk through, behind, or in front, fully engaged.
The team of artists comprising consists of Alain Guerra and Neraldo de la Paz, who have been working together since 1996. Both born in Cuba, they now live and work in Miami. In an attempt to archive contemporary referents, such as the necktie, the artists confuse our expected use of the object. They replace this symbol’s reference to “power” with a medium’s “usage.” Now, the tie, which can distinguish a work suit when worn, refers to a piece of the whole. The process in which Guerra de la Paz creates the images mirrors breakdown and restructure of commonly-held ideologies.
Behind Guerra de la Paz’s iconographic style is a heavy reﬂection on radical economic positions. Visual allusions compel us to converse on uncomfortable subjects, such as money and politics. The concurrence of humorous and morbid subject matter discomforts us. This confrontations makes us question the artists’ intentions.
With or without intention, art of a diaspora renders a state of confusion while examining two societies. Initially, we take in the the basics: shape, form, line, contour, color. Intrinsically, we search for clues from where we derive our concept of “the artist”: nationality, ethnicity, gender, sex.
Diaspora forces us, for better or worse, to compartmentalize what we take in. We feel better this way--when everything is neatly packed in a conceptual cubby hole: Marxist theory goes into geographical philosophies; the “necktie” concept ﬁts into American symbols. However, it isn’t this simple, it is actually more simple. Cultural norms are pervasive. Cultural norms, iconography and pressures overlap in a global web.
Guerra de la Paz offers us universal metaphors, animating our acquisitions and coercing us to look them in the eye. We are imbibed with a strong disdain against corporate corruption when the power tie is sculpted into a deathtrap. The installation Monday through Friday, 2005, displays ﬁve necktie-d nooses suspended from the ceiling in a row in a similar fashion to plastic vitamin containers. These objects echo the eerie numbness spread across America by the constant activity of impassioned work. Repeated nooses lessen the shock the we ﬁrst feel when witnessing such a heinous object. The image becomes mentally accepted, even though it is a object of horror. The image is distant from us; just as each day of monotonous work is removed from one’s actual living trajectory. Hours at work are removed from life and death.
Megan M. Garwood graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, receiving a Bachelor of Arts concentrating in the History of Modern Art with a minor in Ethical Analysis and Morality. Once in New York City she paid her dues as a gallery girl, first at Bjorn Ressle Fine Art and next at Marlborough Chelsea. For the past three years she has worked as an Arts and Culture freelance writer for multiple international publications. Each morning she still asks herself if she feels more like a urinal than a work of art, only because “R.Mutt” is scrawled across her left shoulder.