East City Art Reviews—Resilience and Uncertainty

By Eric Celarier on April 3, 2022
Resilience and Uncertainty, exhibition view.  Photo by Julio Valdez.

Bringing together various perspectives from the Washington, DC and New York City art communities, curator Julio Valdez demonstrates that art can buoy us through the darkest of times. While still feeling the effects of the pandemic, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities is hosting a six-person group show, Resilience and Uncertainty, which showcases artists’ proclivities for reimagining turmoil and isolation into something more hopeful.

Anyone familiar with the lobby gallery will remember that it is divided into three ascending levels. Immediately drawing the visitors’ attention to the top rear wall, Ezequiel Taveras’s work, Connection, attracts viewers into a metaphorical spider web of sisal rope and ceramics. Two blood-red tubes protrude from the center of this network of cords. Taveras’s installations often employ complicated braids with suggestive heart forms. These constructions speak to the ideal of social harmony. Taveras says, “As sentient human beings, what we most need for physical and mental stability is contact with other human beings; we must open our hearts.” (1.)

Ezequiel Taveras, Connection, 2022, installation, ceramics, rope, and tensors. Image credit: JVS Project Space, NYC. Courtesy of the artist.

Along the same wall are a group of forty-eight black and white linoleum prints by Felix Angel.  These were created as images to accompany the artist’s novel Tantas Vidas, Miguel (So Many Lives, Miguel) written during the height of the epidemic. The prints are dominated by broadly outlined, male figures whose interactions range from the mundane to the romantic. The book chronicles a young man experiencing the complexities of love while negotiating the road to success. Angel says, “In the solitary confinement induced by an invisible enemy, I reflected on my life in the context of what I have done as an artist, and those who I care about and have loved.”

Felix Angel, Sin Hablar, Image created the artist’s novel Tantas Vidas, Miguel, linoleum print, one of an installation of forty-eight. Photo courtesy of the artist

At the end of the hall are Patricia Encarnacion’s collection of digital collages depicting hands and profiles within a tropical forest setting. From her series, I am From Where You Vacation, these pictures illuminate issues surrounding the tourism industry in the Caribbean. Encarnacion describes the consequences of the epidemic, “Despite being a designated space for entertainment and a “paradisiac” escape for the global north, the Caribbean was forced to take measures for the well-being of its people. But these measures have been questionable and used to control people.”

Patricia Encarnacion, Resilience, Digital collage, 2020. Courtesy of the artist

On the mezzanine level of the gallery, Dominie Nash has hung two moderately-sized quilts. Meant to portray the intricacies of organic life, they feature large printed leaves that the artist has reinforced with machine stitching to enhance the veins that define their structures. Sticking with neutral colors that contrast values of black and white or monotones of brown, Nash’s compositions pay homage to nature’s designs. Nash sees this work as comforting in such difficult times, saying “I discovered that art is essential to get me through the days.”

Dominie Nash, Big Leaf 36, textile, 2014. Photo courtesy of the artist

Across from Nash’s quilts is Mildor Chevalier’s painting Mapping the World. This acrylic on wood abstraction implies some sort of cosmic or meteorological event. In the lower right area of the painting, a square encases a barely discernible Atlas-like figure. Inventing imaginary landscapes for his solitary characters, Chevalier’s interest in the principle of space is self-evident. In addition to Mapping the World, he installed an untitled installation of painted panels on the back side of the same wall. The panels from Untitled work together form a unified scene in which cloistered individuals occupy an apocalyptic scene surrounded by an architecture of tangled scaffolding. Having been stranded in the Dominican Republic due to safety measures, Chevalier describes some of his feelings about the pandemic, “I felt the irrelevance of territories, a time of complete chaos and uncertainty. The pure act of painting became a window through which I see the world with a sense of hope and a refuge that gives me strength.”

Mildor Chevalier, Untitled, acrylic on wood panels. Photo courtesy of the artist

Stepping down to the street level puts the viewer in front of two of Eric Finzi’s epoxy resin panels. Depicting scenes of child labor in the early part of the last century, his abstracted figures are intended to evoke the psychological states of people too young to fully understand what was happening to them. Finzi’s title She Jess Works for Pleasure ironically exposes the hypocrisy of such labor practices. He explains, “In the solitude of a studio, distanced from my painting by hazmat gear, guided by the chemical properties of the polymerizing epoxy resin, I have used the uncertainty of flowing resin to help explore uncertainty of a life of mining coal, shucking oysters, or picking cotton.”

Eric Finzi, She Jess Works for Pleasure, 2019, epoxy resin on wood. Photo courtesy of the artist

Resilience and Uncertainty gives voice to messages of uneasiness, hope, and survival. As curator, Valdez sees these artists finding ways to use adversity to their advantage. Locating truths in the chaos of the psychological and social disaster brought about by the pandemic, this group has been able to work through and even discover hidden meaning in the unpredictability of the world; a world that is far less stable than we once thought.

Resilience and Uncertainty is on view through April 14 at DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Gallery Hours: Monday to Friday 9AM to 6PM, at 200 I Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003. For information visit: http://www.jvsprojectspace.com/exhibitions/resilience

  1. All quotations taken from the exhibition descriptions.