DC -- American University -- Katzen Arts Center -- 2017B Spring Exhibit: Carlos Luna: Green Machine:
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Description of Pictures: Carlos Luna: Green Machine
April 1 - May 28, 2017
Green Machine features the latest work of one of Cuba's leading contemporary artists, Carlos Luna. In this exhibition, painting, sculpture and installation become one to portray Cuban stories and fables. While using culturally-specific imagery, Luna demonstrates all that we have in common. "Ever since the first people were around, our problems have been about ourselves, what we are doing, our existence… but people even from different backgrounds can relate to human problems." Luna brings his viewers into the darkness and returns them to the light, both physically and psychologically.
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Specific picture descriptions: Photos above with "i" icons next to the bracketed sequence numbers (e.g. " ") are described as follows:
KATLUN_170331_001.JPG: Carlos Luna
Who Eats Whom, 2015
KATLUN_170331_011.JPG: Carlos Luna
Catalina's Mirror, 2015
KATLUN_170331_021.JPG: Carlos Luna
KATLUN_170331_031.JPG: Carlos Luna
KATLUN_170331_042.JPG: Carlos Luna
In the Garden, 2015
KATLUN_170331_055.JPG: Carlos Luna
KATLUN_170331_067.JPG: Green Machine: The Ar of Carlos Luna
Curated by Dr. Barbaro Martinez Ruiz
KATLUN_170331_069.JPG: Challenging the Past
Starting in the 1990's, the artist began incorporating symbols into his compositions, among them scissors, knives, pyramids, triangles, trees, stars, horseshows, as well as bows and arrows. Luna's graphic drawing, atmospheric backgrounds, and use of high contrast definition, highlight the pictographic qualities of these symbols. In using such conventional symbols, Luna created the space to develop a new vocabulary of form, structure and visual concepts, paying homage in the process to works by his Cuban forbears and contemporaries, including Wifredo Lam's The Jungle (1944) and Hurricane (1946), Sosa Bravo's Tribute to Almodovar (1995), and Umberto Peņa's Aayy, Shas, I Can't Stand it Anymore (1967).
The paintings featured in this gallery convey a visceral tension. Isolated calligraphic forms appear constrained and the vacuum implied by their separation conveys a sense of horror. The symbols seek emancipation from their flat surfaces and strain for the freedom to converse among themselves about their respective cultural experiences, moral paradigms, and diverse religious traditions. In conveying this narrative desire, Luna alludes to the rich. Yoruba Ifa literary tradition and its role in the shaping of rural Cuban culture.
Luna has expanded his field of expression through the use of ceramic and metal. Steel plate etchings provide new vehicles for the artist to weave iconic images into a narrative that explores the tension between fleeting beauty and temporal recollections that shape memory and imagination. The hard mirrored surface of the metallic plates present a duality of nearness and distance-like memories themselves. These characteristics suggest a deep ambivalence towards the act of remembering and a guarded, distrustful view of seemingly unblemished. memories.
KATLUN_170331_072.JPG: Reimagining the Narrative
In his most recent body of work (2014-15) Luna reintroduces themes from his earlier work but now in an entirely new medium: textile. The woven tapestries hanging in this gallery are the result of an ambitious collaboration between Luna and the renowned Magnolia Editions in Oakland California, a studio that works with some of the world's foremost artists, that sought to shift Luna's work from analog to digital production.
To create these masterful tapestries, Luna creates individual sketches on paper, working closely with Magnolia as it translates these detailed works into digital renderings. A mechanical loom reads the digital renderings, capturing a level of detail not immediately evident to the naked eye. Multiple surfaces stacked one upon another combine to create a deep field of woven layers, with alternating vibrant and somber colors. The production process and its physical results mirror the functions of the human eye, which observes a broad colorful composition from afar, but the infinite abstraction of individual colored threads. up close, serving as a visual metaphor for how divination can convey a broader message across the details of individual readings. The use of textile also creates an intimate relationship between the viewer and the piece that mirrors the artist's own engagement with his art during its production and raises questions about the complex interaction of distance, comprehension and connection. Vernacular cultural references drawn from Nigeria, Cuba, and South Florida, play into the tapestries' pictorial compositions, complementing depictions of Ifa philosophical concepts that allude to the shared spiritual legacies in these communities. Decorative, functional, imaginative, and complex, these tapestries simultaneously look back to a venerable history of artistic expression and yet are firmly embedded in the age of mechanical and digital reproduction, like the guajiro, the connective thread between Cuba's past and future.
KATLUN_170331_075.JPG: Realm, Icon, and Memory
A traditional subject depicted colonial European prints, the guajiro (peasant) plays a fundamental role in the history of Cuba. In his work, Luna revisits and reinterprets this distinctive narrative of peasant festivities, cultural traditions, and everyday life and challenges the dismissal of the influence of rural tradition on broader Cuban culture. As he recasts these rural subjects as forgotten heroes, he also reimagines political figures as caricatures. Robo-llusion challenges the iconic representation of Fidel Castro by transforming him from peasant, to ruler, to an elderly figure awaiting his end. The train's metaphorical passage of time undermines the historical archetype of an all-powerful leader.
The painting tradition of the bodegones in colonial Spain and pre-1959 Cuba, in which interior living spaces were portrayed in intimate detail, plays a strong role in the artist's vocabulary of icons. The rooster in the center of this composition as well as in El Gallo Negro (The Black Rooster) anchors the guajiro's daily routine and evokes an Ifa literary reference, the Ogun bo di ko story of Orunmila, in which a rooster divines the future and acts to protect the interior of a home.
Also alluding to the Ifa divination system central to Yoruba religious practice, the interaction between the color black and various shades of gray in Back Bite, which, like El Gallo Negro, forms part of the artist's "black series" from 2014, suggests a mysterious atmosphere in which unanswered questions abound. These graphic effects. evoke the ambience set in Yoruba moral tales and suggest the continued contemporary need for the moral archetypes. described in and ethical lessons imparted by such stories.
KATLUN_170331_088.JPG: Born in 1969 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Carlos Luna, one of the foremost contemporary Cuban artists, explores how memories and imagination affect temporal perception. His works draw deeply upon the rich rural culture of Cuba-the Cuba of the artist's youth, academic schooling, and deepest memories. The title Green Machine alludes to the importance of the rain forest known as "El Monte," which represents a scared space in Afro-Cuban religious tradition, as well as in the popular imagination of Cubans, a place of origin and source of vitality and healing. The centrality of such connection to nature also alludes to those who farm the land -- the guajiros -- whose contributions to the emergence of Cuban culture Luna believe to have been overlooked.
Throughout his work, Luna presents an optimistic vision of Cuban identity, rooted in national pride, but removed from politically charged western notions and eager to embrace renewal. Luna's focus on Cuba's oft-forgotten rural culture and its contributions to greater Cuban society drives his artistic vision. The artist encourages his Cuban audience to embrace the ambiguity inherent in being part of Western political history while seeking a uniquely diverse cultural identity and to let go of pre-conceived narratives of elitism and political division.
Luna views painting as a gift through which he extols a visual tradition that transcends cultural and political divisions. His is a narrative of unification that acknowledges the legitimacy of diverse cultural references and integrates political commentary with accessible vistas. He asks the viewer to wrestle with arguments ranging from the importance of social harmony to society's predilection for beauty, questions that reveal themselves beneath the painted surface.
Luna's technical approach to composition as well as his innovative use of paint, charcoal, canvas, paper and metal, articulate a particular concept of beauty. He visually brings to life aphorisms and popular expressions, delivering a verbal and visual one-two punch about his geographical and mental odyssey from Cuba to Mexico and, finally, to the United States, where he currently resides.
KATLUN_170331_099.JPG: Carlos Luna
KATLUN_170331_114.JPG: Carlos Luna
Black Bite, 2013
KATLUN_170331_231.JPG: Carlos Lunn
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