Alejandro Aguilera wanders back and forth between two and three dimensions, between abstract and semi-figurative imagery. The works are linked by subtext: personal memories, especially of Cuba, the relationship of culture and politics, identity.
The Atlanta artist’s recent paintings at Saltworks add a metaphysical tack. Prompted by the death of his father, the works seem a vision of two worlds — this one and the one beyond.
In “Life After Death (American Flag Map)”, Aguilera conjures a memory landscape filled with triangles, which recall the small flags that decorate Cuban streets, and crosses.
The sparkling stars and stylized sun light up the sky, a rich azure found in most of these paintings. In a way, the artist has created his own version of the poignant “Starry Night.”
Is it coincidence that dealer Brian Holcombe pairs these paintings with a video called “Lazarus” by Jefferson Pinder?
This piece departs from the conceptually oriented videos exploring race and identity that were included in the High Museum of Arts’ “After 1968.” Here, Pinder plays a man whose car won’t start. Out of the blue, one man appears and wordlessly starts pushing the car. He is joined by passers-by, one after another, who propel the car down the road.
At first the five-minute piece appears to be a joyful story about the potential power of community, until the end (spoiler alert), when you discover it is a fantasy.
Kojo Griffin is a self-made Lazarus. The watercolors at Saltworks represent another step in the journey to reinvent himself since he abandoned the paintings and style that had propelled his career.
In earlier exhibitions, it seemed, he wanted to start from a clean slate. This time he returns to depicting human relationships. This is good. Griffin knows how to communicate the subtleties of interpersonal dynamics through body language — gesture, posture — and spatial relationships. And he knows how to create dramatic tension through ambiguity.
The Atlanta artist folds each sheet in half, so that the blotted watercolor creates a symmetrical pattern. The result is reminiscent of the psychological instrument known as a Rorschach test, in which one’s response to an ambiguous image reveals underlying emotional baggage. It’s an apt form for Griffin’s content.