Visual Art

Monumental Installation Ushers In Locust Projects’ New Little River Space

Written By Karen-Janine Cohen
March 27, 2023 at 7:09 PM

Rafael Domench’s “assembling beneath a desire for sabotage” is the first exhibition inside Locust Projects’ Little River space. (Photo courtesy of Zachary Balber) 

Books hold meaning for Rafael Domenech, the first artist featured at Locust Projects’ new Little River location. He creates artist books, considers books as both objects and information storehouses, and he conceptualizes books as a kind of architectural template that reveals more than it holds.

These themes come together in “assembling beneath a desire for sabotage,” the installation that marks Locust Projects’ 25 anniversary and inaugurates the space at 297 NE 67th St., Miami, and will be exhibited through June 24.

“One of the questions that come to mind dealing with such large spaces is the idea: ‘How do you make a large space even larger by not thinking about the totality of the space, but generate fragments, so the space achieves some kind of infinity?’ That always leads to interesting pockets of things,” says Domenech.

Resting on beams of Rafael Domenech’s architectural intervention at Locust Projects are various phrases. (Photo courtesy of Zachary Balber)

Entering the space – light-filled and far larger than Locust Projects’ former North Miami Avenue location –  there are blue, orange and multi-colored semi-transparent mesh screens, which can be raised and lowered, and are held aloft by wooden beams. Some mesh is silkscreened with fragmented photos of Miami street scenes, all from Domenech’s archive. Resting on beams are phrases, for example, “sitting across from you sharing moments of complete dissonance.”

By adjusting the screens, there’s the possibility to create a chamber of more-or-less intimacy, depending on the viewer’s desires. It’s a space designed for experiencing. And that is what Domenech and Lorie Mertes, Locust Projects’ executive director, hope people will do. Perhaps they’ll come and make a room of their own, work on a laptop, or embroider for a half hour. The way the spaces are designed, it can feel as if a visitor is actually within a book’s pages.

“I like to think about (projects) not as conclusions of ideas, but a live process,” says Domenech.

Cuban-American artist Rafael Domenech was invited to take over Locust Projects’ new space in Little River prior to its building out of galleries. He envisioned a massive architectural environment. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

To start things off, Locust hosted several activations, entitled “Chapters,” in keeping with the book concept. They included a conversation with Domenech and  Talia Heiman, who served on the curatorial team for the 58th Carnegie International, the international art exhibition at the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Museum of Art.  Domenech’s project at Locust builds on his recent pavilion for the 58th Carnegie International, which opened in September and closes in early April.

Another Chapter invited participants to construct hanging lamps to be used in the installation. The third Chapter was built around the 25th Anniversary Benefit Dinner, where the interactive experience included wait staff stationed at the space’s periphery, which meant guests had to move through the exhibit – and encounter one another – in order to be served.

“It’s the idea of the spaces where we gather, where unexpected relations and events occur,” says Mertes, referencing how the installation echoes interactions in places such as parks, where those sitting, strolling, or just observing might spontaneously connect.

Domenech, born in 1989, immigrated to Miami from Cuba at 21. He moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. As an undergraduate, he studied at New World School of the Arts, and Miami was and remains his touchstone. “I consider myself a Miami artist, and it has to do with my investment in the town,” he says.

While working on his master’s degree, Domenech took architecture classes, even then knowing the discipline’s concerns about how space transforms and modifies as people move within it would inform practice. Whether working on a new installation or another project, he says he is always creating artist books, (sometimes the words are on the outside), which have become a model of thinking about space.

Mertes said Domenech was the right fit for the new location, and conversations led to the installation’s parameters. “We were moving and needed a project that could live in the space,” says Mertes. In February, Locust left its North Miami Avenue location and moved to 67th Street, closing one show and opening another almost simultaneously.

Rafael Domenech wishes for his”assembling beneath a desire for sabotage”  to be dismantled inside the space and materials used for other projects. “None of it is coming back to the studio,” he says. (Photo courtesy of Zachary Balber)

The new location nearly doubles exhibit size, and one room is slated for a dedicated digital innovation lab. The staff is still exploring how their new home will work with Locusts’ mission. “We are learning what the opportunities and differences are,” says Mertes adding that “It is a unique space for artists to envision and imagine installations.”

Locust is among one of the most innovative of Miami’s art spaces. Founded in 1998, the venue has welcomed experimenting artists who look beyond the horizon. “Locust is a laboratory,” explains Mertes. The new home has a five-year lease, with the option to renew for another five years.

Other “Chapters” are scheduled for the space, including one in June by Dance NOW! Miami, which includes two performances, conceived and directed by local actress-director Susie K. Taylor. Soon thereafter, teens in the Locust Art Builders program, where participants build an exhibition from scratch, will dismantle Domenech’s installation, using the materials for other projects, and the show will “dissolve,” as Mertes says, near the end of June.

“The whole show is a document. None of it is coming back to the studio,” says Domenech.

WHAT: Rafael Domenech: “assembling beneath a desire for sabotage”

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.  Through June 24.

WHERE: Locust Projects, 297 NE 67th St., Miami

COST: Free

INFORMATION: 305-576-8570 or is a nonprofit source of dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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