Sunday, January 15, 2012

Social minimalism

Thanks to the Biennale Prospect.2 in New Orleans, the art galleries invite out of town artists, among them Ivan Navarro, a Chilean artist now living in Brooklyn. The last few days of Prospect.2, I visited the UNO Art Gallery on Saint-Claude Avenue to see the site specific work, a reminder of his installation Fence, 2011, at the New York Armory Show. The message is quite clear, fences are frustrating, divisive, usually ugly, represent authority. Fences are also an invitation to jump over and a challenge to the individual. The decorative fence at the gallery encloses a grey dead space, empty, a luxury in this neighborhood.
It makes me think of the rails along cemeteries, maybe jumping this fence with its pale white light would bring me to paradise. I imagine a world of lost souls and phantoms populating the empty space. Minimalism requires the viewer to get involved!

Looking back, the whole event and its location brought up a deep frustration. The building in the tough neighborhood even on a Friday at noon, is enclosed behind a locked iron door and one can see the cameras on both sides to deter intruders. The Art District in Saint-Claude is an island and I cannot find the purpose of art galleries if they are excluding the locals. What is the accomplishment of the art galleries promoting "art for the few" other than exclusion and eventually gentrification of the neighborhood? The artist's message was obviously not directed to the people who feel the impact of the fence in their lives: migrants, prisoners, political activists... A few like me were able to see the work.
The setting is hypocritical and tarnishes the artist's message.

Ivan Navarro was just featured in the January issue of ARTnews in the article Man of Refraction.

photograph by the author

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