Off Balance: Ivan Capote, Yoan Capote & Omar Gámez
Curated by Magda González-Mora and Rodrigo Barriuso
February 5 - March 16, 2015
Julie M. Gallery was pleased to welcome guest artists Ivan Capote, Yoan Capote and Omar Gámez. The exhibition marked the first professional collaboration between curator Magda González-Mora and gallery manager, Rodrigo Barriuso.
Off Balance emanates from the curators’ observation of what often disrupts our emotional and psychological stability, and the intuitive impulse to develop coping mechanisms to front this adversity. Using the poetic and metaphoric interpretation of Omar Gámez, Ivan Capote and Yoan Capote, this exhibition comprises a number of pieces that, together, delineate a unified psychological journey.
The work of Omar Gámez (Mexico, 1975) and his series Stability: Notes on Gravity, serves to address the issue itself—the eminent lack of balance caused by an endless array of circumstances that are subject to each individual’s personal and collective experience. Here the body is presented stripped, in an attempt to evoke a sense of vulnerability that invites the audience to reflect on their own destabilizing elements. Gámez maintains a relationship of some sort with his subjects; he photographs friends, former lovers, himself, simple acquaintances. He chooses, however, to refrain from fully showing their faces. The models do not look directly at the camera. They allow us to focus on the environment in which they have been placed, rather than their identities. Paradoxically, Gámez names each piece after the woman or man that they depict. Just the first name—Omar, Jaime, Clement, Michelle… The artist dehumanizes his subjects in favour of the audience’s understanding of a larger theme, but affords them a subtle identity. It effectively reminds us of our ability to draw parallel narratives between a stranger’s experience and our own.
An appreciated optimism shines through these photographs. Despite the apparent lack of balance, the bodies presented in the series seem to be in perfect and peaceful equilibrium, as if they had managed to find the means to cope with the external dislocation.
Ivan Capote (Cuba, 1973) uses language and text as the primary conduct for his artistic discourse. His minimalistic approach to sculpture confers his work an added sense of honesty that unveils the conceptual connotations, and the true meaning hidden behind ubiquitous words. The sculptures by Ivan Capote in this exhibition invite us to analyze three issues that the curators identify as stabilizing and destabilizing agents—the search for individuality, the desire to feel whole, and a burning quest for validation.
In Alter Ego, Capote’s playful use of the word yo (Spanish for I) alludes to the dichotomy between material and spiritual states of being. The artist only sculpts half of the letters. They only make sense, and the piece is completed when a light shines on it, and the shadow of the existing half is casted on the wall. This steel and light sculpture subtlety points at a constant search for our true identity, one that is at times rooted inspirituality, but that often finds itself complemented and enhanced by material elements.
Vanitas is inspired by the eponymous seventeenth-century European tradition. This piece updates the notion of the transience and vanity of worldly pleasures in the face of mortality. A lighted candle, often used in the baroque compositions, is intended to remind us of the inexorable passage of time. In the context of this exhibition, Vanitas signifies our burning desire for recognition and validation. How long does fame last in a culture that is obsessed with information and icons? How quickly does a flame burn out? Ivan Capote critically observes the reality that surrounds him, and engages us in a dialogue that requires the deep analysis of our own understanding of popular culture.
Ivan Capote’s sources of inspiration are vast. Going back to his childhood, he remembers spending time looking at two seemingly identical pictures on his book and trying to find the seven differences. In Patrón (pattern), the artist creates two drawings that at first glance are identical. They are both made from the same stencil—a three-piece sculpture that reads Todos Somos Iguales (we are all equal). The repetitive process of his creation, having to spell out these words multiple times, as well as the resulting drawings, are reminiscent of the communist chants of Castro’s 1959 Revolution and its efforts in building a socio-political model where every citizen was expected to be an equal. Even though Capote’s work is grounded in concerns that transcend borders and sensibilities, much of his artistic practice is partly inspired by his observations of Cuba’s current political and economic reality. Mimicking the island’s arguably failed attempt to create a society marked by equality, Patrón references the struggle to find individuality amidst governmental impositions and expectations.
Yoan Capote (Cuba, 1977) advocates for a state of mind where we feel once again balanced. His work, known to be provocative and non-conformist, deals primarily with interactions between individuals and objects. It often challenges our perseverance and exemplifies our constant need to move forward, even when our efforts seem futile, and equilibrium unachievable. Embracing the lack of stability suggested by Omar Gámez’s work, Yoan’s pieces provide us with a much-needed reconciliation. Open Mind declares the first step towards recovering balance. This series of watercolours are the original sketches of the city-commissioned installation by the same title, which was first exhibited at the Canoe Landing Park as part of the exhibition Before Daybreak, curated by Magda González-Mora for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2014.
These watercolours depict a brain-shaped maze made with barricades that stand above average human height. Despite the prohibitive nature of the barricade, individuals are encouraged and able to walk around. There are not real obstacles beyond those imposed by ourselves. Those who walk around the maze, like neurons in possession of information and experiences, become a metaphor for our own behavior and models of interaction.
Lacerating (My Silence), is a piece deeply influenced by Yoan Capote’s experience as a Cuban, and his response to the reality around him. It presents the sound wave produced when the artist pronounces the word silencio (silence). Every edge of the sound wave has been hand sharpened, alluding to the lacerating implications of self-imposed silence and censorship in a context where it is often easier to remain silent. Paradoxically, Lacerating (My Silence) also serves to rid the artist—and ourselves—of the turmoil caused by confrontation. Yoan Capote firmly deals with the duality of silence as a protective and damaging entity, one that can bring us out of our estate of equilibrium and yet restore our psychological balance.
Yoan Capote also uses the human brain as inspiration in The Thinker. This interactive installation consists of two dumbbells in the form of brains. They sit in front of a mirror that reads: “Do one thousand repetitions while thinking of something transcendental.” Capote encourages the public to pick up the weights and meditate on issues that affect us on personal and social levels. The piece advocates for a restored space where the mind and the body are in synch, aware of one another and in harmony with our surroundings.
Off Balance presents the work of three artists that address the vicissitudes of modern living. They complement one another, by pointing at an issue, or by offering a tangible solution. We inexorably come out of balance; we are destabilized by factors that are within, or beyond our control. This exhibition invites us to embrace this reality, and to take an active stand, a first step towards restoring our stability.