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Arts & Culture

The Guadalupe’s Exhibition 'Flatland' Is Anything but One-dimensional

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Courtesy images

Carlos Aires, 'Love Is in the Air (Fly Edition)'

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Leigh Anne Lester, 'Amalgamate Dispersion'


With “Flatland,” curator Patty Ortiz partly plays with New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman’s notion that the internet, social media and growing globalization have leveled the world’s playing field, but she also toys with modern art’s fixation on the surface of a painting, extending from Henri Matisse’s compression of space to Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings through Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s pop-infused “Superflat” style.

Austin artist Xochi Solis, for example, appears to have used a battering ram to squish her candy-colored paintings onto the wall, eliminating the extra dimension of canvas and frame and leaving what resembles elegant stains. Solis’ If Only I Could Remember These Dreams is extremely flat, yet you can see layers of black, yellow, blue, green, pink and brown paint with a few photographic images peeking out. Like a computer chip, just because a painting is flat doesn’t mean it’s not complex and powerful.

Many artists abandon illusionistic space in their pursuit of perfect flatness, but Mark Hogensen perhaps best embraces the dual nature of “Flatland” in three drawings of a flat plane that appears to be magically floating in mid-air; he also includes smudge drawings on the wall of the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria on Columbus’ voyage that proved the world isn’t flat.

Of course, a lot has changed since 1492.

“Our world is certainly flat,” Ortiz writes in her essay about the exhibit. “Whether we like it or not, the speed, ease and extent of everyday communication and transportation have altered and will continue to alter the condition of being here. We live in a giant round world flattened by technology. But flat does not mean equal and flat does not mean level. [“Flatland”] presents 10 artists who are maneuvering successfully in this flat world, juggling form, process and cultural meaning to keep the artistic landscape constantly shifting and expanding.”

Humor helps when confronting conceptual conundrums. Probably the most fun is Cisco Merel’s interactive video installation, Self-Portrait, which vividly illustrates that under the skin, we’re all just shimmering, shifting, multicolored parallelograms.

Spanish artist Carlos Aires uses cutouts to add dimensions of irony and social commentary to familiar flat objects. For his world-encompassing Love Is in the Air (Fly Edition) installation, he used a laser to cut vinyl records into silhouettes of pop culture figures, porn stars and people in the news. Combined with the song title on the record, the figures acquire deeper meanings, such as a stripper derived from Nat King Cole Sings My Fair Lady or the torture victim tied to a chair clipped from Lou Rawls’ Sit Down and Talk to Me. Other slyly subversive pieces include a devil cut from Billy Swan’s I Can Help, a woman cloaked in a burka made from David Houston’s A Woman Always Knows and a grinning skull culled from Jerry Vale’s What a Wonderful World.

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