With a color palette dominated by white, works by Argentinian artist Marie Orensanz in ... a path to share ... display luminously in the 5,900 square foot Sicardi Gallery, which has represented Latin American artists since 1994.
In honor ... of whom? is an installation of 20 white opaline bells with stainless steel tags containing cut-out messages in English and Spanish. The piece was first shown in Buenos Aires in 2002, and again in Paris in 2009; in both instances the language of the tags was changed to that of the hosting city. Hung from the ceiling at various intervals, and casting its shadow against the walls, the piece invites the viewer to explore the space, think and perhaps ring a bell.
The tags answer back with "for those who yield," "those who doubt," "those who sell," "those who judge," "those who think," "those who leave" and "para los que callan" (for those who are silent). The work is a thinly veiled dismissal of coercive social and political structures, consistent for this artist who imbues her works with subversive messages.
Orensanz, who was born in 1936, resented both Argentina's military dictatorship and the reigning misogyny of the period; she had been told that women should be content to paint pretty flowers. In response, she instead created a series on poisonous flowers, with her belladonna and wood anemone representing those who hide in the shadows and are threatened by repression. Nine works from this Fleurs vénéneuses series are included in this exhibit, created between 1973 and 1976. Meticulously drawn and laden with pictograms and symbols from physics, the images contain sparse messages that invite contemplation. "People are conditioned by the environment," "We have the power to choose," and "Action is the consequence of thought." There is an architectural elegance to the drawings; some include arrows and markings for folding or bending the page.
After moving to Milan in 1972 the artist began working with marble and stone, in part because of her proximity to the Carrara quarries. Elevar is an obelisk shaped marble carving, about 3 feet in height, with almost microscopic drawings of dots or lines in black and gold, as well as small figures, numbers and symbols. The clean lines and smooth sides of the marble provide elegant contrast to the jagged, tapered spires of the sculpture.
Two small, untitled drawings from 1992's las venas de la tierra series incorporate small fragments of marble. They are sweet and lovely, but can't compete with the gravitas of the other pieces in the show.
Orensanz seems to be experimenting with new media; two pieces from 2012 combine folded and bent paper and mixed media in gray and white compositions entitled lumière 2 and energie 2, continuing her fascination with physics but without the political message.
If possible, try to see the exhibit before May 2. For a few more days, the sounds from one of the pieces in Pedro Tyler's Extensa exhibit chime like the meditative tones of Tibetan bells, a nice accompaniment to the opaline bells.
... a path to share ... continues through May 30, at Sicardi Gallery, 1506 West Alabama, open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., 713-529-1313, sicardigallery.com.