Weekly Update 1-Roxana Perez-Mendez at Painted Bride

Below is my review of Roxana Perez-Mendez’s Encantada at the Painted Bride Art Center. The story is on the art page in the Weekly and below with some images added. Here’s Libby’s post on Perez-Mendez. And stay tuned for my fall roundup piece (also in the Weekly today) coming in another post.

Suite Dreams
A super-hotel serves as a metaphor for brainwashed consumerism.

Roxana Perez-Mendez
Someone please teach me how to shoot a picture through a peephole. My several attempts failed to capture the three luminous and quite lovely peephole scenes in Roxana Perez-Mendez’s installation.

After I saw Roxana Pérez-Méndez’s installation at the Painted Bride Art Center, I ran home and looked up “encantada” in my Spanish-English dictionary. “Delighted, charmed, pleased,” said the dictionary, but I already knew that: It’s the word of choice when you meet someone for the first time in, say, Puerto Rico. But I wondered about the word’s roots, and indeed, “encanto” is defined as, “charm, spell, enchantment.”

Roxana Perez-Mendez
One piece of the installation is a video collage of a beach scene with the improbably monolith on the beach brooding over the scene like a skinny Darth Vader.

It’s in that realm of conjuring and magic I’d put Pérez-Méndez’s “Encantada”—so much more than just “pleased to meet you.” The spare installation—which stretches over two floors and includes models, sculpture, soap samples and peephole environments—is a tall tale about the construction of El Encanto, the fictional tallest hotel in Puerto Rico. A symbol of all things new and shiny, El Encanto is everything advertising tries to sell you when it taps into your dreams. It’s the best car, the best vacation, the best house, the most opulent future, the impossible dream.

Roxana Perez-Mendez
The doilies encircling the top of El Encanto. Also birds circling. And are those bar codes on the plastic sheeting? The whole installation, with its distancing of the artist from the material reminded me of Gabe Martinez‘s wonderful Art Alliance piece in 2003, in which he was everywhere — and nowhere.

So what does this Emerald City accommodation look like? El Encanto, in its sculptural form, is an aqua-blue monolith sheathed in clear plastic and topped by what looks like a mantilla of doilies. Fanciful doesn’t begin to cover it.

Roxana Perez-Mendez
The model of the hotel’s grounds, with the digital swimming pools and synch swimmers.

In a tabletop model of the hotel’s grounds are two swimming pools in which synchronized swimmers spell out the hotel’s name. (The pools are video monitors, and the swimmers are the creator’s alter ego, the Incredible Shrinking Woman, digitally cloned into a whole team of performers.) The hotel’s rooms, seem through peepholes, reveal bright tableaux involving a woman (the artist) in a French maid’s uniform. There’s muzak wafting through the space, and a complementary bar of El Encanto soap to take home as a memento.

But all in all, this installation about the packaging of ideas could’ve used a little more packaging itself. The discrete objects would be more captivating with additional bows, bells and visual whistles to feed the eye as well as the brain.

Roxana Perez-Mendez
artblog intern, Caitlin, helping herself to the complementary bar of El encanto soap.

Pérez-Méndez is an artist with formidable technical skills, and her work, which focuses on ideas about identity, dreams and lies, is always smart. It’s great to think about, and many of the parts are great to look at. Previously, the artist was the glamorous leading lady of her own video installations. But recently, as in this piece, she’s stepped behind the scene to become instead the Oz-like impresario who orchestrates the tableau. The glam performance work was hot, being both simpler and closer to autobiography, and the installation is cool. I look forward to a day when the artist finds a way to combine the hot and cool.

Talia Greene
Talia Greene’s drysophila-fueled digital prints are a mix of yuck and awe, bugs and hair. But there’s something about the idea of masses of things adding up to something bigger is great. I immediately want to compare this with photographer of collected objects that make up bigger pictures, Vik Muniz. More on him here.

And don’t miss Talia Greene’s digital bug wonderland in the Bride’s Café Gallery.

Talia Greene
Here’s the rune-like array of imagery the artist has made with the humble laboratory insects which she gets in bags and dumps on the scanner and manipulates. The artist told a group of us that unlike what you might think, she still has spider-phobia when she sees one in her house, although, spider-phobia tinged with scientific inquiry.

The InLiquid artist’s canny scan-bed imagery—she pours the dead bugs on the scanner and moves them around to make her images—reverberates with ideas of the good and the bad of science and technology.

“Encantada”; “Talia Greene: Solo Exhibition”
Through Oct. 14. Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine St. 215.925.9914.