Miami’s home-honed artists are often associated with contemporary formats like street art, installations, photography and multimedia. A trio of recent exhibits showcase the strength of Miami-based painters in very different ways.
For the past 50 years, Cuban-born Arturo Rodriguez has lived and worked in Miami, creating a body of fantastical oil paintings that appear in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, among many others. His current show, at LnS Gallery near Coconut Grove, comprises a series of large-scale paintings based on three seminal literary works: Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” and Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s “Journey to the End of the Night.”
The vibrant, emotional works were painted in response to the pandemic. While the overall images sometimes seem impressionistic, a closer look reveals a precise plan of careful strokes, historical references and humor. Many portray his own domestic life (wife and partner DEMI is also an artist) in a wry and whirling sea of upheaval that still feels all-to-familiar.
Through April 9 at LnS Gallery, 2610 SW 28th Lane, Miami; lnsgallery.com.
Eddie Arroyo was Little Havana born-and-raised during the Mariel era. His Colombian mother and Peruvian father tried to avoid the highly politicized actions of that time; though his father painted fervently, his practical parents discouraged him from pursuing art as a career.
Still, Arroyo pursued art studies at FIU. While he has followed his parents in practicality — he’s long had a day-job as an administrator — his painting prowess earned him a place in the 2019 Whitney Biennial for work that focuses on protest.
His current show “Talking to Real Americans” at Spinello Projects in Allapattah, grew out of his participation in anti-gentrification protests in Little Haiti. An activist-led tour of Chinatown during his New York trip to the Whitney opening heightened his awareness. He and other artists subsequently withdrew from the show in protest over a board member’s business interests.
Today that exploration has expanded to land use, environmental issues, wage inequity and white supremacy, he says, and a broad examination of empire and fascism. Each of the striking canvases — executed in acrylic — captures a moment of Miami protest, with its context explained on the back.
“I know images can be recontextualized,” he said. “History constantly gets revised.”
Through March 19 at Spinello Projects, 2930 NW 7th Ave, Miami; spinelloprojects. com.
At first glance, the ethereal works of Cuban-born Julio Larraz, one of Latin America’s best known artists, is an homage to beauty. The polished paintings seem effortless, a Cuban following the road trod by Edward Hopper and Rene Magritte.
Some Larraz works portray a dreamlike world of possibilities and improbabilities, such as the underwater image of a scuba diver carrying a briefcase. Others depict a tranquil world as we’d like to remember it, of a sunny spring day on an island when white linen suits were de rigeur and always pristine, never crumpled or soiled.
“I’m not a storyteller,” Larraz says in a video accompanying his first retrospective, “The Kingdom We Carry Inside,” at the Coral Gables Museum.
“In my view, 200 years from now, if my paintings last, nobody is going to care where it was, or what it is. The only thing I care about is how beautiful the painting will be,” he says in another text.
But like his paintings, the words may stretch truth. Many of his images depict politically powerful figures and historical moments. While interpretation may be left to the viewer, the choice of subjects speaks for itself. As he himself has said, “Painters, by nature, are protesters; they are fighters who rebel.”
Through April 30 at the Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; coralgablesmuseum.org.
ARTS WRITER JOINS HERALD
Amanda Rosa has joined the Miami Herald / el Nuevo Herald as multimedia arts journalist covering both visual and performing arts. In this role, she will focus on bi-lingual content geared to social media platforms as well as traditional narrative storytelling in English and Spanish.
In adding this position, the Miami Herald / el Nuevo Herald become one of the few regional newspapers nationwide with a dedicated arts journalist. It was made possible by a grant from the Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation. The Miami Herald / el Nuevo Herald maintains full editorial control of the work.
Rosa can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter at @amandanicrosa.
The John S. and James L. Knight has announced its latest awardees in the Knight Arts + Tech Fellowships, exploring the intersection between arts and technology. They are Complex Movements (Detroit, MI), Mother Cyborg (Detroit, MI), Mary Maggic (Los Angeles, CA), Ryan Kuo (Brooklyn, NY), and James Allister Sprang (Philadelphia, PA).
This story was originally published March 4, 2022 1:18 PM.