HOME BASE: El Salvadorian expat living in Copenhagen, Denmark
BACKGROUND: Showed for the first time in a museum at age 26
MEDIA OF CHOICE: Photography—most recently, time-lapse landscapes tinted black and white or color photo collages
PREVIOUSLY SHOWN: El Salvador, Poland, Costa Rica, Lima (Peru), Munich, Rome, Paris, Washington, D.C., Cuba, Mexico City, Santiago (Chile), Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Venice (Italy), Sao Paolo, Scotland, Guatemala, Chicago and all over Denmark
WORK: Luis specializes in producing haunting, hazy, disjointed time-lapse photo collages of forests on the outskirts of Copenhagen, Denmark, where he now lives. These are a far cry from what we might picture when we think “landscape”—they’re more nightmarish than bucolic, monotone forests awash in fiery oranges, isolating blues and frigid whites. The time-lapse technique toys with our ability to ground ourselves in this space, throwing us into a visual rabbit hole in which it’s impossible to find our footing. It’s like we’re living in a Robert Frost fever dream, with an infinite number of miles to go before we sleep and a conveyor belt for a forest floor.
Based on his portfolio, Luis found his dark, dreamlike aesthetic by age 22, toying with landscape as well as portraiture early on, venturing into the abstract and the geometric before finding his way to his current landscape series.
But as an El Salvadorian artist with ties to the rest of Latin America, as well as Eastern and Western Europe, Luis seems uncannily comfortable relating to the land of his adopted home. In fact, he seems to be most at ease appropriating the landscape for his artistic vision and translating it into his own piecemeal world—one frame, one moment at a time.
Luis Paredes, Dream
Luis Paredes, Forestral Choir
An entirely sophomore-driven and remarkably thought-out production, “Cock” was the collaborative brainchild of director Jordan DuBeau ’16 and producer Alexander Burnett ’16. Written by British playwright Mike Bartlett and debuted in 2009, the Hepburn Zoo production starred Burnett, Arnav Adhikari ’16, Juliette Gobin ’16 and Dylan Gilbert ’16 and ran from Thursday, Nov. 7 through Saturday, Nov. 9.
While on a break from his negative and domineering boyfriend (Burnett), John (Adhikari) finds refuge in a tender divorcée (Gobin) who shows him the light of a not-terrible partner, which John mistakes as the light of heteronormativity, thus throwing him into an identity tailspin that carries us through the rest of the play. We follow a meandering John as he demonstrates his complete inability or his unwillingness to make a goddamn decision, leaving his two overbearing paramours to battle it out over our meek hero.
The play’s climactic scene—a dinner party with John, his boyfriend, his girlfriend and, for some reason, his boyfriend’s dad (Gilbert)—culminates in (spoiler alert) John’s deciding to stay with his boyfriend, not because he really wants to, but because he is afraid to give up the identity that he has spent so many years constructing for himself.
Despite its intrepid title, “Cock” thankfully relies less on sensationalism and titillation than it does on sharp humor and skillfully drawn characters. Bartlett’s dialogue is precise and adept enough to carry the piece without much semblance of context.
“Looking at the script, with its zero stage directions and its incredibly particular layout of dialogue, I get the sense that the playwright cedes control of how the play is staged, with the condition that the dialogue comes through as he intended,” DuBeau wrote in his director’s note. “It’s written so well that it seems to scintillate regardless of the visuals.”
There is no set or props to speak of (although the costume design from Yvonne Chan ’16 was spot-on), and though we can glean enough from the text to determine that we are in contemporary London, we are given little framework for the characters’ lives off-stage. John is, in fact, the only named character—M, W and F comprise the rest of the cast—making “Cock” a modern-day take on the love triangle archetype.
Of course, in making John’s choice between a man and a woman, Bartlett explores more (post)modern themes than Shakespeare did—themes of sexual identity and labeling that feel especially relevant in a college setting. It gets a little heavy-handed towards the end, when John will not stop musing about the irrationality of the straight-gay binary—a deft filibuster, it seems, while he tip-toes around the inevitable decision at hand. But generally speaking, “Cock” presents a theme worth exploring at Middlebury: as Burnett put it in his producer’s note, “What happens when we forget the labels? Are there parts of ourselves we haven’t realized exist?”
At 90 minutes without an intermission, “Cock” felt, at times, too long. Part of this seemed intentional, an attempt to mimic structurally the frustration that all the characters feel at John’s indecision. As a rhetorical device, it was effective: I, too, was frustrated. When the girlfriend and the father took their respective exits in the final scene, I was relieved to see them go, simply because it meant that a choice was finally made.
What was best about “Cock,” though, was the cast, which brought Bartlett’s archetypes to life, fleshing them out into three-dimensional, if nameless, people with idiosyncrasies and flaws and shimmering humanity.
Burnett’s M was not just an antagonistic boyfriend but also a man who is deeply, adoringly in love. Gobin’s W was not just a magnetic, self-possessed seductress but also a woman with her own history, needs and insecurities.
Gilbert’s F was more than just a third-act wrench thrown into the three-wheeled dinner party—he was a hilarious and adept take on the overprotective father figure, adding depth to the M character and perspective on the evolving question of sexual identity.
Adhikari offered perhaps the most multilayered interpretation: he succeeded in creating a character that was alternatively infuriating and charming, pompous and unsure, and relatable through it all.
This fall, continuing its exploration of Southern California’s most dynamic emerging talent, Laguna Art Museum presents new solo exhibitions from two noted Los Angeles-based artists: ceramicist Adam Silverman and installationist Richard Kraft. Both exhibitions open Oct. 27 and will run through Jan. 19, 2014.
"ADAM SILVERMAN: CLAY AND SPACE"
Through his innovative ceramic work, Adam Silverman explores the relationship between art and nature—a study in contrasts, essentially, that’s centered on the space between man-made creation and the indigenous world out of which it was born.
“Clay and Space,” Adam’s debut museum exhibition, is a sprawling four-gallery show that highlights his pottery pieces through a series of site-specific installations designed to push the limits of what visitors might expect from a typical ceramics display. He has created an experiential walk-through presentation, a layout that toys with the standard scale of his chosen medium.
Also included in the multimedia experience are two video pieces: one that features footage of a Le Corbusier-designed chapel that has long inspired the artist, and another that is projected onto one of his pots to add an unprecedented dimension to ceramic art.
"EX·POSE: RICHARD KRAFT"
This fifth installment of the museum’s new contemporary art series showcases the work of Richard Kraft, a London-born, Los Angeles-based artist renowned for his use of public space as a backdrop for his complex installations and performance pieces.
For “ex·pose,” the artist has created an immersive long-form film—compiled from a year’s worth of footage shot in California, New York and India—that will be projected from multiple devices in the museum’s basement gallery.
As much as the landscapes of Los Angeles and India seem unrelated at first glance, viewers will find both subtle and profound connections between the two through the experience of Richard’s latest work. The film’s length and overlapping sequencing make viewing its entirety an impossibility, but returning for a second look a necessity. (949-494-8971)
HOME BASE: Dana Point
BACKGROUND: Stumbled upon visual arts at the end of college, has since continued studying printmaking at Saddleback College
MEDIA OF CHOICE: Monotype printmaking, often on imported or handmade paper, which combines natural forms, ambiguous scripts and recurring geometric patterns
PREVIOUSLY SHOWN: Throughout the Southern California area
WORK: There is something about Anne’s richly layered monotype prints that is distinctly Eastern—whether it’s the printmaking technique itself that recalls Japanese woodblock prints or the imprecise overlaid block calligraphy. There also is something that is undeniably old-fashioned; perhaps it’s the way the faded printing makes an oblong monotype look like an envelope that’s been tossed around the Postal Service’s facilities for 1,000 years.
But perhaps what’s most striking in Anne’s prints is the reoccurrence of large, roughly shaped circles, whose quiet omnipresence makes them seem potentially significant but stubbornly obscured. Viewing them is like trying to uncover the truth about crop circles or the real reason behind Stonehenge’s construction: utterly fascinating yet persistently frustrating.
The repetitive circles, the indistinguishable script, the rambling flora—it all seems to underscore a hazy spirituality, which is perhaps at the root of why these works seem so foreign, so otherworldly, so indistinctly archaic.
Don’t miss “Traces of Yesterday,” featuring Anne’s prints, at Sandstone Gallery beginning Nov. 6. (949-497-6775)
Anne Moore, Approximate Engagement