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Places You Aren’t Supposed To Go:

[Don’t Play Me] Do We Still Call It Abstract Art?

Lisette Morel
Curated by Ayana Evans
Main Gallery, Gallery Aferro
April 7 – May 26, 2018
Opening Reception April 7th 7-10pm @ Gallery Aferro

Lisette Morel is a painter of Dominican decent who is infatuated with the color black. Ms Morel is not just in love with this color, she is questioning it. With every manipulation and stage of her work she is asking “If I do this, what will happen?” This element of uncertainty makes the work unpredictable and unending like the color itself. For the artist, black is layered with memories of looking at the night sky with her mother and viewing the tarred tops of other buildings as a child. Her mother always said if she stared long enough she would see another shade of black. – blue black, red black and soft grey blacks would emerge. Her mother wanted her to be aware of nuance and depth. Morel didn’t understand this fully, until much later, as an adult who uses this constantly in her paintings. For Morel the color marks territory as it also points to “places you aren’t supposed to go” like extremely dark alley ways or metaphoric places like dark thought. In this sense, Morel literally marks her territory by considering and invading space that is not limited to the gallery walls or traditional canvas. She paints on found sheetrock that is hung on the wall and frequently bunches fabrics or allows canvas to run onto the floor. Her mark making extends to the gallery walls in a sense of urgency and permanence. This is where Morel’s artistic world takes flight, from a starting point of the forbidden and a mother wanting her to see more. Morel’s work is layered with not just tradition abstract expressionism but also matriarchal abstraction that uses mop heads to make aggressive marks and holds scratches in the same high esteem as the nuanced relationship of matte black or semi gloss black to lush brush strokes of a muted brown.  As an artist of color, it is not lost on Morel that her work would be more “commercial” if she spoke to her heritage directly and didn’t cloak her feminism in abstraction. Yet, the freedom from limits that abstraction offers is where Lisette Morel wants the viewer’s eyes to wander, through her darkness where paint marks territory and erasure with definite marks. Morel was the inaugural recipient of Gallery Aferro’s Sustainable Arts Fellowship for studio residents who are also parents.

Morel is investigating as she paints which leads to her performative work. In that work she is performing that investigation with paint for an audience. The process becomes the work. Performative elements of mark making began to weave into Morel’s work in 2013. For this exhibit, the last in a 2017-2018 quartet of solo shows by women artists of color from different generations organized by the gallery, she will complete a new solo work at the opening.  In thinking about object-making versus art-objectives in her practice, Morel steps into a process outside of painting. Performance art is not an object/objective based medium. This is  not like making abstract work, but it is being in the abstract work itself; this is about ‘being ,’ ‘creating,’ and ‘thinking’ while usually painters are about the ‘result.’ It is an act of vulnerability for Morel to create openness/possibilities in her performance without the safety of a resulting object or the barrier of canvas between the audience and herself. “For me performative pieces are an extension of my body and a vulnerability. While some of the performances express power; they are also fragile; there is a duality. And when I allow the performances to become public or invite the public it’s not me…I pray and ask for cojones… so that my most authentic inner self [emerges].” The residue from this performance, “KNOTS,” will be left on display in the gallery for the entire duration of the show. This works will shift slightly as the show progresses.

Two Spirits Takeaway and Promo Image low res

Two Spirits

Curated by Jo-El Lopez
Eleta J. Caldwell and Rodney M. Gilbert Memorial Gallery, Gallery Aferro
April 7 – May 26, 2018
Opening Reception April 7th 7-10pm @ Gallery Aferro

Featured Artists:
Luis Carle
Gerardo Castro

Though in Western tradition, gender is understood as male and female, many world cultures, especially Native American culture, do not have such a precise division. Instead there is provision for, movement back and forth between genders. “Two Spirits” refers not just to the two artists exhibiting, but also evokes a body simultaneously housing both a masculine and a feminine spirit. This exhibit is also inspired by the interplay between spirituality, activism, and queerness, as seen in the longing felt by many people of indigenous descent to connect to this earlier, lost heritage.

Borinquen artists Geraldo Castro and Luis Carle’s works evidence how the radical influences pop culture, including ongoing pushback and questioning of gender roles. Castro painting of visually masculine nude men adorned in feminine trappings juxtaposes roles and notions of traditional beauty. Photographer Luis Carle’s nostalgic imagery recorded gay life and activism in New York City in the early eighties, and revisiting this work now reminds us of the necessity of more activism, as we see what has changed and what has not.

These Two Spirits, and other men like them, take on an important role in the art community; they are healers, visionaries and valued for their balanced perception of existence and a way of being.

Luis Carle was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York City in 1984. Carle first studied photography at Parsons School of Design and worked as artist and photographer’s assistant to various well-known photographers including Rebecca Blake, Michel Haddi, Mark Liddell, Arturo Melero and others. In the 1990s, Mr. Carle started working for various magazines and newspapers including: Latina Magazine, CRN Magazine, Footwear News, El Diario La Prensa, San Juan Star and El Nuevo Día. Mr. Carle joined advertising campaigns like Cutty Sark, AT&T, OBRI Cosmetics, and participated in many documentary films. In 1992 he founded and directed O.P. Art, Inc. (The Organization of Puerto Rican Artists, Inc.), a not-for-profit artist’s collective, that has been recognized as an important source of Latin art by the New York Regional Center of the Smithsonian Institute (1999), The Museum of Modern Art (2006), the NYC Library, and accepted by NYFA’s Fiscal Sponsorship program. Luis was the visual arts curator for the NuyoRican Poets Café in the East Village, New York.

Carle’s photographs have captured the essence of a life well lived and have been included in The New York Times, Daily News and other art magazines. His artwork has appeared in galleries and museums in New York, including the Museo del Barrio’s first S-Files Biennial (1999), The African American Museum, Centro Gallery at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Hunter College), MOCADA: Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts, and The Museum of Modern Art; and abroad, in The Caribbean Museum (St. Croix, Virgin Islands), Museo of Contemporary Arts (Puerto Rico), Museo de las Americas (Puerto Rico), The Hague Arts Center (The Hague, Netherlands) and the Sarkowsky Gallery (St Petersburg, Russia). He has photographs in the permanent collections of The National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution (Washington DC) and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art (New York).

He writes: “For decades, the dominant cultural image of masculinity has included heterosexuality, physical strength, financial success, having many children, manly mannerisms and not crying or showing emotion. Society has coded intellect, passivity, softness, emotional intelligence, compassion, care-taking, and sensitivity as feminine, and therefore weak. Being masculine or feminine doesn’t make us less of a man or a woman. Masculinity is not inherently better than femininity; the two are different, and both hold special, powerful aspects. In the Latino culture there’s a belief that men need to be hyper-masculine, domineering, controlling, and without the slightest hint of femininity.”

Gerardo Castro was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and earned his MFA from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY in 1996. His work has been exhibited locally, nationally and internationally, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Spain, and major US Cities. For close to 20 years Gerardo taught Color Theory, Design and Painting courses at New Jersey City University, Jersey City, and has lectured on the influence of Santeria and other Afro-Cuban religions on contemporary art. In 2008, Gerardo and his partner opened an art supply store, Newburgh Art Supply in Newburgh NY, where he currently resides. Castro organizes the yearly Newburgh Open Studios tour, now in its 8th year and also curates The Lightbulb Project 2012 /2018, a public art project, where 104 artists painted 4-foot wooden light bulbs as a Public Art event in Newburgh, NY.

Castro has exhibited in the following selected art shows, galleries and museums. Biblioteca Nacional, Havana Cuba; Wilmer Jennings Gallery NY, SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, Human Rights Institute, Kean University, NJ: Aphrodisiac ‘Agua’, Santo Domingo, DR; In Search of Queer Gods, Root Division, San Francisco, Museum of the History of Ponce, PR, Social Justice: St. Mary’s College Museum of Art, Morago, CA; Niger to Afrofuturism, Westfield State University, Westfield, MA; The World After January 20, 2017, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.

In Castro’s current series, rather than concealing features that would be deemed unattractive beneath the male gaze, he glorifies them, posing questions around whether masculinity is nature or nurture; passed down through generation to generation, or individually assumed and often hidden behind. Castro has created images rooted in ethnicity and gender as well as culturally dominant fantasies about masculinity and sexuality that have escaped the trappings of popularized constructions of Latino identity; work that enables a connection to history and his roots, a courageous confrontation of meaning and mysticism. Castro seeks to uncover the hidden culture of machismo, a conflict between two identities; gay and Latino: a tension between identity and reality that can be incredibly detrimental to the Latino community; tragedy of machismo is that a man is never quite man enough.


Elevator Music 4: Brian Oakes

Elevator Installation, 2nd Floor Gallery Aferro
Curated by Jacob Mandel
April 7-May 26, 2018
Opening Reception April 7th 7-10pm @ Gallery Aferro

Brian Oakes is a New Jersey-based animator, filmmaker, composer, and educator. His award-winning short films have screened at national and international film festivals and galleries. He studied animation and digital arts at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Many of his films are based on original musical compositions, in which he plays and records all of the instruments.

Taking inspiration from a variety of sources, ranging from film, music and animation, to memories and events in his own life, each piece reflects Oakes’ unique ability to transform seemingly inconsequential familiar objects into new and challenging time-based realities. At once nostalgic and contemporary, the uncanny, dreamlike subjects of these works speak of the silent osmosis between image and experience, memory and imagination. For Gallery Aferro’s Elevator Music Project, Oakes created several tracks of music that evoke a feeling of weightlessness and empty space.

Elevator Music is a continuos rotation of experimental sound art curated for the permanent Elevator Music installation on the 2nd floor of Gallery Aferro. The installation is comprised of a very early Otis Elevator (single digit) from the early 1900s excavated from the basement of Gallery Aferro’s facilities at 73 Market Street. The elevator was cleaned up, refurbished, and equipped with a motion sensor activated media player. Guests enter the elevator and the audio-works are activated, analogous to the ways we may enter a functioning elevator ready to deliver us to our desired (or undesired) destination. Elevator Music is a space where audio works can become accessible within a visual arts gallery experience. Over the years the installation has taken on many forms, from musical mix-tapes to experimental “studio sounds”. The original Elevator Music, Aferro Publication #17 juried by artist Adam Trowbridge, was intended for permanent loop in the Gallery’s freight elevator before the entombed passenger elevator was even discovered. Currently in it’s 4th iteration, Elevator Music has been curated by Spencer Frohwirth, Dahlia Elsayed, and Jacob Lawrence Mandel. Entering Elevator Music brings the viewer to a new, personal space to listen and reflect on alternative forms of creative expression.