Nicholas Cueva, Sex Wax
Freight + Volume, New York, NY
April 11th to May 12th
By ANNA SCOLA May, 2019
Through the unlikely lens of a beach time activity, Nicholas Cueva reveals a hesitant connection to a deeper spirituality. His solo show at Freight+Volume, Sex Wax, features a series of paintings on raw, handwoven fabric. The title of the show is a salute to the thread that carries through all the works: the water, the endless horizon, the surf.
In all the works lining the walls, the surfer figures recede into the distance of their own canvases and yet seem to crowd the space of the gallery; their silhouettes ominously present. It is important to note that no figure is actually engaged in surfing, but rather, the paintings only capture the moment of anticipation. There is an outward movement from the central emptiness in the gallery as all walk into the depths of the water.
In Dublin, two figures are shadows in a glowing sunrise. These hot tones of the sun captivate the viewer in warmth. As the figures hold their surfboards over their heads, there is a pause—a breath—to subsume the sublimity. This is only momentary, however. When the day fades, there is a forbidding presence to the grey hue that looms in Walking Away. The air is cold but the figures persist into the water. At the bottom of the frame, the tide creeps in and out.
No Berries on the Trees has a figure so vague in the distance it is represented by slight patches of color against the sky. She stands on a lone cliff. Her arms are raised up high in preparation to jump and yet one questions her willingness to dive into the water crashing against the rocks. It is difficult to say whether she is on the brink of catharsis or doom. This repeats in the much larger canvas, Its A Lot of Bad Things. Is he living buoyantly or under fitful threat?
At the deepest point of the gallery, the viewer is faced with Wetsuit. The suit is painted with animated motifs of summer: palm trees and anchors, a blooming flower garland and beads. The empty suit is uncomfortably stretched between the walls resembling a crucifixion. It looms over the space posing a juxtaposing consciousness: the contemporary activity of weightlessness composed into a thing of age and godliness. As evident in his other works, there is a suggestion of a relation between the two for the artist. The divinity one is searching for in an equivocal higher being is discovered here, in the water at the edge of the horizon just out of reach.
This hopeful ambiguity is a regular motif in Cueva’s work. Walking through the scenes, one is pulled in and out of a sensation of release—or could it be escape? It is not certain whether what is depicted are figures in charge of their own freedom or surrendering to something more powerful than themselves. One questions whether these two things are even opposites at all. Maybe they exist only because of one another? Freedom could only really be found in surrender. WM
Anna Scola is an American and Russian artist, writer and curator based in Singapore and New York. As a practicing artist, Anna uses performance and installation to explore issues of identity and insecurity that arise from personal and socio-political relations to contemporary migration. As a curator, she has conceptualized and managed a number of exhibitions that create unique conditions for the artists and explore the potential of a gallery space.
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