Form Follows Function was the title of the joint exhibition of New York-based Puerto Rican artists Christopher Rivera and Hector Arce-Espasas at METRO. The works on view seemingly elude the basic premise of the phrase -identified with 20th century industrial design, architecture and Modernism- where form defies and revolts from any real and present functionality. Form is then instinctive but controlled, and meaning transgressed through process, resignification and the reconciliation of binary opposites. As many contemporary artists, both Rivera and Arce-Espasas create fictionalized realities, where form is not only an aesthetic choice but also a conceptual one.
Christopher Rivera presented five new works in the form of sculptures, installations and drawing where an interplay of oppositional forces was examined and subverted. Upon entering the space, viewers were confronted with the sculpture Construcciones Humanas (Human constructions), which consisted of an imposing wood sculpture that outlined the architectural forms of the exhibition space. Positing a self-referential action, the work’s title carved on the sculpture, the work also functioned as a starting point from which to analyze the dichotimized relationships in the exhibition, where the idea of deconstruction (as opposed to construction) is manifested through objects and drawings. In Deconstrucción número 3 (Deconstruction number 3) a wooden door is decomposed into six parts, its remnants lingering on the floor, persuading viewers to mentally construct the object from its residual fragments; a rectangular form deconstructed into several incongruent shapes that defy its original form. Whereas in Estrategias y tácticas (Strategies and tactics) a subtle curved plexiglas sheet is seemingly crushed, inviting viewers to deconstruct the whole into its fragments. From work to work, this oppositional push and pull, a conceptual movement of sorts, undermines the very foundation of binary systems; order and chaos hardly opposites, but differing elements of a dialectical process.
The idea of the Caribbean as a tropical paradise filled with lush vegetation and exotic fruit is a frequent cliché employed in the media as well as in visual art. But in addition to presenting these images formally as a cliché, artist Hector Arce-Espasas induces viewers to reassess their meaning through the combination of forms, materials and colors, where the pineapple figures predominantly as the quintessential tropical fruit; a symbol of exportation, exoticism and paradise. At METRO, Arce-Espasas presented three new works which together disrupt current as well as historical meanings of paradise, implied by colors and forms such as the pineapple fruit. In fact, the pineapple wasn’t always a readily available commercial fruit; it once stood as a rare commodity reserved for the nobility and the high class. But in Arce-Espasa’s works, its value is questioned, at times elevated and at others diluted. In Still Life Bottles Palladium a shelving of scintillating ceramic bottles is set against a bright yellow backdrop, while in Aubusson and Pineapple Ewer a water jug in the shape of a pineapple lies atop a painted black fabric made to resemble an area carpet. But how do these elements when observed together persuade viewers to reconsider these images? It is seemingly only through the interplay between function and form, aesthetic choice and perceptual process, where meaning is constantly redefined, and paradise questioned as well as reaffirmed.
Images courtesy of Manuela Paz
- Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted: Josué Pellot & Hector Arce-Espasas
- Quintín Rivera Toro at Museo de las Américas
- Quintín Rivera Toro at METRO