Contemporary art has been stuck, locked in a frozen space that began somewhere around the moment that Andy Warhol capitalized on capitalism. It’s gigantic. It’s grotesquely commercial. It’s elitist and cold. And, guess what, it’s dead. I know, I know, there are a few of you who want us to stay trapped in this era, mostly commodities traders that claim to be collectors or those who love the idea of dismissing beauty and emotion as insignificant notions of the uneducated. But let me encourage you to let go. Give up your resistance. A Jeff Koon’s sculpture can still be placed near the swimming pool if you so desire. The rest of us are ready to feel something and move on. We need air. We yearn for more…something else. So let me be one of the first to say, “I see light.” And much of it is coming from Miami.
This month, in a small space downtown, there is an exhibition I bet you’ve never heard of by an artist that I’m sure you don’t know, and it’s phenomenal. It’s moving, intimate, inspiring, and soulful. It’s a diamond in the rough and is the first exhibition by a humble Columbian artist named Cesar Rey. The show, “Lightness,” is an installation of the same name and is created from the heart. It is an experience that can be likened to meditation, where one travels to a watery dreamlike world occupied by peaceful, levitating beings that have condensed from the energy of their human counterparts. Soft music fills the air and shadows dance across the walls, invoking the same gentle, safe calm experienced by newborns or toddlers as they lay down to sleep.
Cesar Rey, Detail of “Lightness,” 2013; © Cesar Rey/Photo by Marcello Ibanez.
The exhibition features seven twisted and contorted works titled according to number. All of the pieces within it are recycled from used materials, mostly plastic and metal, that hang from a ceiling covered in white fabric panels. Rey has created a space that can be viewed in two separate settings: one light and airy, the other, dark, where pieces are illuminated with glowing color. Each environment creates a different experience, but in both instances ghostly reflections haunt the works, magnifying their ethereality. No one piece within the installation is the same. And the artist purposefully designs each with ambiguity, allowing their physical associations to be worked through in the mind of the viewer. However, each inherently embodies extensions of the spirit, where notions of balance, evolution, and transcendence are considered. Through each structure and the interplay of the sculptures within the space, Rey explores the unification of man and woman, the delicate exchange of feminine and masculine, and the contrasting necessity of positive and negative, as well as light and dark.
Cesar Rey, Variation 67, 2011, plastic and wire, 85 X 122 X 65 in.; © Cesar Rey/Photo by Marcello Ibanez.
In Variation 67 (2011), vaginal and phallic forms on opposite poles work in concert. As they reach towards each other, they join, blending and bending as the work expands and grows in the center where it naturally becomes more complex. Compressed and woven wire occasionally sprouts small plantlike bunches of transparent plastic, signaling points in a timeline where stages of growth for the being may have occurred or challenges might have been met.
Cesar Rey, Variation 8, 2012, aluminum, glass, plastic, and wire, 27 X 27 X 20in.; © Cesar Rey/Photo by Marcello Ibanez.
In Variation 8 (2012), the sculpture winds in a different way. Here, the male and female projections have been eliminated and the being morphs into a circular creature devoid of a point of departure. It spirals and shifts with no beginning or end. It is whole and complete.
Some people choose to remain as they are. The place they occupy feels comfortable and easy. Fear creeps in and they are left paralyzed. But it’s all that lies on the other side of that fear that shapes and molds, elevating us to new heights. When we are stripped of our comforts, we evolve. Our suffering becomes our salvation, for without it we could not reignite and empower ourselves within, leaving our inner spirit stronger than ever. This is what Rey and his artwork encourage. “Lightness” speaks and tells us to seek harmony, to float above, and to release what is heavy. It is a reminder that each and every one of us are magnificent points of light. We are all the same. We are all valuable. Even wire, once disposed of, can function as art. Seeing it as such only requires a shift in perception. Whether it is in this lifetime or the next, the light within us will never stop searching for perfection and peace within, because it knows, with absolute certainty, love begins and ends there. There is no stopping it. So release your grip, flow, and invite the scary shift. If we’re lucky, there will always be a Warhol on view or the possibility of catching a balloon sculpture (if you don’t have room for one near your pool) at Versailles to remind us from where we came.
“Lightness” is open to the public until May 11th at the Aluna Art Foundation, 172 West Flagler, Miami, FL. Please call ahead for times.
A special thank you to Marcello Ibanez for his generous contribution to this article.
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