FABIEN CASTANIER GALLERY
Its thesis—that Latin American artists have a particular interest in, or at least way of, collapsing the divisions between high culture and low—needed more room than a normal-size gallery allows. But the five artists assembled in Multifarious Abstraction do all persuasively fuse “serious” and “popular” art in forms at once familiar and peculiar-seeming to our Anglo eyes. Ricardo Rendón, one of three Mexicans in the show, bridges both art-craft and fine-folk divisions, fashioning compellingly awkward structures out of ungainly but beautiful materials. Rendón is especially adept at juxtaposing pliant and rigid objects into formations that strain towards the utilitarian but get diverted into the decorative. Chile’s Magdalena Atria paints with plasticine, exploiting the synthetic substance’s slickness and coloristic over-richness to generate fluid, bubble-rich panels saturated with candy hues. Mariángeles Soto-Diaz, out of Venezuela, employs a lively geometry, redolent of mid-century South American constructivism, to critique the lingering sexism and racism of artistic discourse. Her installation The Pink Elephant in the Room cast its dynamic linear structures entirely in rosy shades, so as to insist on an otherwise obscured feminine presence that has in fact been prominent throughout Latin American modernism. Antonio Muñiz produces soft, elegant gestural paintings which are not really gestural because they’re not really paintings: their delicate, expansive clots and trails result from the application not of pigment but of smoke, employing a candle rather than a brush. Multimedialist Rubén Ortiz-Torres was represented here by a single work, the deliberately harsh and irksome Womb Envy, a urethane relief painted with thermo-chromic paint and high-density foam—car paint, in other words, used to coat a plaque with a pregnant bulge branded with handprints in a send-up of finish/fetish (Judy Chicago’s not least).