Visual Art

Three gallery shows look toward tradition, our digital future and a present reality

Written By Karen-Janine Cohen
May 31, 2024 at 5:01 PM

Three galleries are offering shows worth a visit this summer including “Yellowjacket_2524_Felice Grodin” at Dimensions Variable, along with “Becomes Us” at The Collective 62 and Paul Amundarain’s exhibit “Entropy, Multiple Realities” at Opera Gallery Miami. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Casale)

Galleries and smaller venues have interesting options for the art-hungry with Miami’s big shows veiled until the other side of summer. Three worth a visit are “Becomes Us,” at The Collective 62; Felice Grodin’s “Yellowjacket_2524” at Dimensions Variable, and Paul Amundarain’s exhibit titled “Entropy, Multiple Realities” at Opera Gallery Miami.

Taken together visitors encounter contemporary expressions using traditional processes; the promise of augmented reality, and the human experience filtered through  the surroundings.

At The Collective 62, artists Amy Gelb, Laura Villarreal, and Laura Marsh use sewing, embroidery and yarn to consider contemporary events. The works all play with the idea of textiles as women’s work, both celebrating the tradition and questioning how it can be used in a socially interrogatory way.

Amy Gelb’s “Hope Becomes Us,” at The Collective 62 references recent events. (Photo courtesy of Jeily P. Olmo)

A diaphanous draped installation by Gelb, titled “Hope Becomes Us” envelops those tempted to enter. Gelb, who grew up mostly in South Florida and has strong ties to Israel, says the work is her response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. Vibrating with the shock of the event, Gelb says, “All I wanted to do was tear fabric and stitch. It started as a meditation and the next thing I know, I have panel after panel.” The floor-to-ceiling piece is Gelb’s first immersive work. Looking closely one glimpses pieces of shirts and chemises, a bit of a wedding dress, and gray-and-white photos printed on fabric.

Landscapes, identity, and personal and ancestral history are layered within Gelb’s works. “How can I pierce through time, how can I reveal this?” she asks through her process. She is often termed a photo-based fiber artist and that meaning becomes clear in her studio where large format photos are covered by a transparent, fabric layer, giving the photo a different read. It is, says Gelb, about what can and can’t be controlled.” I love fraying fabric; the kinetic threads that move when people move past them.”

“Dear White House” shows Laura Marsh’s correspondence with President Joe Biden. (Photo courtesy of Jeily P. Olmo)

Moving along the corridor, Marsh’s embroidered works enlist traditional practice for contemporary commentary. “Dear White House” is a letter about her student loans sent to President Joe Biden – and the president’s reply. Surrounding the letters are overlapping frames of material, all repurposed. Another piece, titled “Caretaking is Underrated,” references a traditional sampler. Yet the text reads “A time when Social Circles Existed,” picked out in pinks, greens and yellows on a blue background. Marsh, who started working exclusively in textiles about 10 years ago, said she wanted to honor her grandmothers. “This was a craft for them, they used it to relax,” she says. But Marsh pulls that into another direction. “I want the statements I use to be socially relevant, sometimes political,” she said. Her work, she said, “can talk about serious subjects but diffuse them through soft embroidery.”

Marsh leads an embroidery and sewing class, which has become a social circle of its own. A subtext that runs through her work is the role of women and crafts-making – noting that in many cultures men reserve to themselves the privilege of embroidery and similar arts. Yet in the West, the domestic arts are inextricably intertwined with caretaking – another interest of Marsh’s, who wonders about the future of nurturing. “I feel like we live in an era where we need to start taking care of each other,” says Marsh.

Part of “The Spaces We Inhabit” series by Laura Villarreal. (Photo courtesy of Jeily P. Olmo)

Not far from her work, red threads leap up from large crimson spools to form rhomboid-reminiscent shapes. It is part of Villarreal’s series titled “The Spaces We Inhabit.” The work has an abstract, cerebral and analytical feel. Still, its genesis is from a commonplace experience – a road trip, in this case, through Ohio and Canada. The contrast of the straight lines of the barns against the wide fields was captivating to Villarreal.

“I was primarily working in painting and overlapped into different disciplines until I found textiles and incorporated them into my work,” she says. Villarreal’s work explores a continuing theme: the duality of spaces; not just structures against landscape but domestic versus industrial spaces; plus spaces of origin contrasted with spaces lived in today.

“When we think of textiles, we always think of women in a domestic space, I wanted to go out of that space,” says Villarreal.

She grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, but has spent most of her adult life in the United States. With a background in marketing, she began pursuing art studies when moving to North Carolina with her husband, and ultimately earned a master’s focused on the analysis and management of contemporary art at the University of Barcelona. It centered her ideas on how painting – which she pursued at the time – and other media could inform one another.

These interests come through in “Walls of Memory,” a video installation, also part of “The Spaces We Inhabit” series, which shows Villarreal wiping paint from a wall she came across in Mexico. The hues come off in layers, showing both the paint’s poor quality and the wall’s earlier colors. “I work with memory in all my work,” she said.

Visitors first capture a QR code for the experience of Felice Grodin’s “Yellowjacket_252” at Dimensions Variable. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Casale)

From looking back to looking ahead, Felice Grodin’s “Yellowjacket_2524” at Dimensions Variable is a glimpse into the future in more than one way. Visitors first capture a QR code with a smartphone. Then, gigantic wing-like insect forms come into view on the phone but appear as if they were in the space itself.

It was made through the use of augmented reality technology (virtual reality is the kind that uses headsets). One can’t help but wonder: Is the future “Jurassic Park”-size bugs? Focus oscillates between the amazing technology and the idea of what is to come in our warming world. The work builds on Grodin’s earlier pieces, done, respectively at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and the Oolite Arts’ Media Salon, which also used technology to investigate how our world may transform with the changing climate.

Grodin’s practice includes drawing, where her architectural background is in evidence. Incorporating digital tools became a key focus when PAMM commissioned the artist for its technology initiative. The idea was to look at the world outside the human perspective. “I speculate with an open heart and displace the human a little bit,” she says.

Regarding her choice of the yellowjacket, she says, “I think there is a mythology of insects that cause fear.”

The queen, like others in the order hymenoptera, produces larvae, tended by infertile females while male drones create the nest. “The idea of an alternative society is interesting.” Grodin says she was inspired, in part by how close we live to the semi-tropical wild in South Florida. “It’s so much a part of our life down here.”

Paul Amundarain explores human experiences in relation to their surroundings
through the use of layered materials and abstracted forms at Opera Gallery Miami. (Photo courtesy of Opera Gallery Miami)

She knows the insects intrigue and, in some cases, repel people. It’s intentional. “The part that triggers people goes back to the vulnerability of our control,” says Grodin.

Meanwhile, at Opera Gallery Miami, Paul Amundarain has a series of paintings that looks at the past while interrogating the future. The medium is oil, acrylic and other pigments layered in a manner that harkens to Amundarain’s Venezuelan heritage.

We reached out to Amundarain for an interview but did not get a response by press time.

He says, however, in the press release statement for the show: “For me it is  crucial in my work to mix my identity with the new information that I constantly receive. The industrial aesthetics, advertising iconography and pop culture (present in Miami) are  references that are all present in my work.”

WHAT: “Becomes Us” at The Collective 62

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., by appointment, Monday through Sunday, through June 26, 2024

WHERE:  901 NW 62nd St,, Miami

INFORMATION: 305-804-8624 or thecollective62.com

WHAT: “Yellowjacket_2524—Felice Grodin” at Dimensions Variable

WHEN: Noon to 5 p.m., Thursday and Friday or by appointment, through July 10, 2024

WHERE: 101 NW 79th St., Miami

INFORMATION: 305-606-0058 and 305-607-5527 or dimensionsvariable.net

WHAT: Paul Amundarain,  “Entropy, Multiple Realities” at Opera Gallery Miami

WHEN: 11 a.m.  to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, through May 27

WHERE: 151 NE 41st St., Suite 131, Miami,

INFORMATION: 305-868-3337 or operagallery.com

COST: Admission is free at all three galleries.

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com

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