“Sanctuary” Offers Respite at The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center.

In The Menu, Visual Arts by Audra LambertLeave a Comment

In a bustling city full of distractions and changing landscapes, “Sanctuary” offers the chance for contemporary artists to meditate on subtlety and reflect on homeland in a communal context. On view through July 25th, this mellifluous exhibition, curated by Hayley Ferber, treats visitors to sweeping sculptural installations and new media presentations alongside two dimensional works which combine to ruminate on aspects of identity, belonging and site.

“Sanctuary” is free and open to the public at the second-floor Abrazo Interno gallery at The Clemente: an arts and cultural center located at 107 Suffolk Street.

Works by Pamela Allen, Cecilia Andre, María Dusamp, Stephen Hilger, Guillermo Mena, LuLu Meng, Jeffrey Morabito, Frank Parga and Manju Shandler each produce windows through which their respective associations between material and place emerge fully formed. Guests to the gallery can take a sweeping, unbroken view of the range of artworks included in the exhibition upon first entering the gallery. Early strong impressions are made by artist Pamela Allen (born Jamaica) in her works, “Ahimsa” and “Dactabird.”

In keeping with themes meditating on placemaking, these works incorporate volcanic soil and sand, joined together to form undulating patterns that produce a hypnotizing effect. The artist draws on the motif of the mandala – spatial organization in the form of sacred geometry – in these compositions. The symmetry of these works contrast with textural qualities embedded in the compositions, providing a subtly thrilling contrast.

Nearby works by Frank Parga (born Texas) juxtapose symmetrical shapes and motifs with figuration in works on wood, offering meditations on humankind and the environment that we inhabit. Visitors can divert into a nearby darkened room to experience works by Guillermo Mena (born Argentina) on loop, which meditate on space, connection, travel and site-specificity. These works are 4K video sequences of animation loops that speak to the enduring connection between identity and place as hinted at in sparse, curvilinear forms.

All Photos Courtesy of Audra Lambert/Quiet Lunch.

An installation by Cecilia Andre (born Brazil, Lebanese-Brazilian,) placed at the window to capture the beautiful light filling the space, transfixes visitors. The simple shapes in Andre’s composition further bolsters the work’s ability to enmesh and enfold the viewer within the environment around them. Contrasting with Andre’s bold simplicity, paintings by Jeffrey Morabito (Italian and Hong Konger in heritage) and photogravure works by Stephen Hilger (Californian) exude intricate linework and compositions.

Morabito’s cityscape paintings take views along the East River as meditative moments of reflection, literal and figurative, on the city that surrounds us. Mellow tones and hues interspersed with jewel tone accents paint the picture of a city as seen from afar: silent, yet immense. On the other hand, framed photogravure works by Stephen Hilger depict pastel-toned pastiched moments – snaps of thatched roofs, bedroom scenes, the view through the window of a tree from an interior – creates a sense of distance and removal. The moment is swift and introspective. Where Morabito’s paintings slow down intensely hectic scenes of a city, Hilger’s photographic processes take calm moments and infuse them with a heightened sense of meaning.

One stunning aspect of ‘Sanctuary’ lies in curator Hayley Ferber’s grasp of how much who we identify as infuses how we see the world around us. Nowhere is this theme more apparent than in María Dusamp’s sculptural works, ‘Hunde o flota: las intenciones arrastran.’ Eyes shut in meditation or acceptance, these seemingly floating heads emerge from the floor, just above the chin, to force the viewer to walk around the arrangement of countenances. Where sculpture has historically been used at times to memorialize figures of great importance, these anonymous figures – placed at foot level rather than above on a pedestal – allow humility and self-reflection to permeate the medium, framed immaculately within Dusamp’s deft and skillful sculptural practice.

Manju Shandler’s intricate and effusive painting, ‘Virgo,’ presents a pastoral framing of a giant tree that gives the natural world central focus. The delicate yet firm treatment of the tree’s bark echoes the intricate capture of wood in the roof shingles presented in Hilger’s photogravure work. Shandler creates a lush painting surface, beckoning the viewer to lean in and observe the keen use of brushstroke throughout. Finally, the interdisciplinary practice of artist LuLu Meng (born Taiwan) presents a stunning array of static imagery and moving image, the time-based piece they present – entitled, simply, ‘Piece’ – evokes the artist’s focus on presence and absence, hiding and revealing in turn as a means of analyzing our surroundings in a self-reflexive manner. Artworks in ‘Sanctuary’ turn a lens onto the viewers themselves, and the keen curation of Hayley

Ferber achieves this sense of balance and self-examination. The curator’s aim of capturing the ‘spirit or soul of a place’ through themes of ‘…interconnectedness’ is captured throughout the stunning array of media, artistic styles and concepts that combine to form a holistic vision of who forms who we are – and by extension, the social frameworks that entangle, and free, us.

“Sanctuary” is free and open to the public at the second-floor Abrazo Interno gallery at The Clemente: an arts and cultural center located at 107 Suffolk Street through July 25, 2023.

For more information visit #TheClemente | The Clemente.

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