By Jeff Davis
Julio Valdez’s “Dreams & Reflections” in on exhibit through Dec.17 at the Latin America Masters (“LAM”) gallery at Bergamot Station:
The title of the exhibit is taken from Carl Jung’s memoir Memories, Dreams and Reflections. In Valdez’s work the reflection refers to both the physical light bouncing off the water and also reflecting an inner world shaped by the artist’s personal and collective history.
Valdez was born in the Dominican Republic and much of his artwork is reflective (pardon the pun) of the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea surrounding the island and more recently the Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Celestún, a large coastal wetland reserve and wildlife refuge in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.
The most striking painting of the exhibit is “Celestún II,” an image of a boy (his son) sitting, semi-submerged, up to his neck, on an apparent anchor line or rope. There is no depiction of the dock, a potential boat or the subject’s head in the painting. The water surrounding the boy is rippling away from him as if his arms are fanning the water to maintain balance on the rope. The painting depicts uncertainty as much as serenity; one can’t be sure of the artist inner dialogue. The light reflections off the water are filled with green of the surrounding foliage and dash of blue from the sky above.
Many of his paintings also show the subjects partially submerged; highlighting only a portion of their bodies. Examples include: Feet in sandals wading in clear shallow water, a lone foot and leg swirling in a transparent sea, a boy standing (or floating) head down in the sea and a figure depicted from the waist down in beautiful translucent emerald green water. The works are almost photo-real from a distance and become more abstract as you approach.
With all the unknown or unseen elements in the paintings they should give one a sense of tension or distress, however, the cool colors coupled with dreamlike surroundings give one a sense of calm. The artist’s own interpretation of the painting meanings are left for you to guess given there are no facial expressions for clues.
The Human Condition pop-up exhibit is only open Nov. 25, 26 and 27 at a unique space formerly known as the Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center. The hospital operated in the West Adams neighborhood for 4 decades before closing due to fraud and mismanagement. LA art adviser John Wolf, the curator of the show, invited over 80 artists to explore the corporal and psychological experience of being human.
The artists’ work inhabits over 3 floors or 40,000 square feet of the hospital’s rooms including: Admitting, Pharmacy, Maternity Ward, Cafeteria, Laboratories and numerous Surgical Suites. Art from the Subconscious is displayed on Floor 1, take the elevator to the 2nd floor for the Conscious mind and press 4 for further trauma in the Psych Ward. Plexiglas covers to the windows to prevent your premature exit.
The medical center itself is a much part of the exhibit as is the art. It’s in a state of decay or atrophy – featuring extremely depressing wall colors, deteriorating ceiling tiles, decades old stained carpet and antiquated operating rooms with eerie green tiles from a 1960s horror movie. At times it’s difficult to distinguish the art from the artifacts that were left behind by the former tenants. Hospital equipment, calendars, policy manuals and other remnants are strewn about the rooms as if there was a rush to escape.
Make sure not to miss the following works: The 1st floor cafeteria kitchen has been transformed into a cheery Pepto Bismal nightmare by coating the walls and cooking utensils in nauseating pink paint courtesy of Christopher Reynolds; it could be The Shining III. There is a small green child standing in one of the decommissioned autoclaves that reminds one of Children of the Corn; the eyes stare right through you (Kim Simonsson’s handiwork). There are a number of beautiful ceramic and bronze sculptures in the 2nd floor operating rooms, perhaps a bit overshadowed by the creepy nature of the surroundings. If you stomach is weak you might want to skip the lovely human spine suspended in a transparent tank of blood by Max Hooper Schneider. Ripley from the Alien film would appreciate this one. Continuing on the gore-filled theme, there is a digital print of a floating or suspended head by Gintare Bandinskaite which sits over – you guessed it – a blood-like filled bathtub.
By now you’re thinking perhaps this site is more appropriate for a Halloween fright night; well, you wouldn’t be wrong. That being said, it’s a unique experience and well worth the visit. I know you won’t want to miss the performances in the basement morgue. Ample free parking is available in the overgrown parking lot.
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have local art exhibits/events you want to share with other readers.