Polar opposites attract at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood

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City Link Magazine

June 3, 2010

ice painting


Polar opposites attract at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood

Posted on June 3, 2010

City Link magazine Art, Local art

by Colleen Dougher

Decades ago, an urban legend started that went something like this: Soda-can tabs can be exchanged for time on a kidney-dialysis machine. Or was it for cancer treatments? Even though it wasn’t true, and there has never been such a program, some people continued collecting tabs. Students brought them to school, assuming that their teachers were connected to these charitable endeavors. Miami artist Maitejosune Urrechaga first encountered the phenomenon when she began teaching nine years ago, and kids brought her the tabs as recently as last year, just before she started a soda-tab project of her own.

A student approached her with a bag of more than 100 tabs and told Urrechaga she would need them. Urrechaga didn’t know why she would need them, but accepted the bag, anyway. A week later, Jane Hart, the curator of the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, told her about Adaptation, a show featuring found-object artworks. Urrechaga decided to do an installation titled “Soda Tab.” Once word of her project got out, she began receiving tabs from other students, co-workers and even a soda-devouring UPS delivery man who thought he was saving his tabs for an organization that helps kidney patients. “I was like, ‘You know, that doesn’t really exist,’ “ Urrechaga recalls. “I had to, like, break their hearts.”

Urrechaga, whose installation will feature nearly 500 tabs decorated with brightly colored, woven string and safety pins, is one of seven artists participating in Adaptation, which will open Friday. The others include Tawnie Silva of Miami, Bradley Arthur of Tampa and Xavier Cortada, also of Miami, who will exhibit paintings he completed in Antarctica.

In late 2006, Cortada traveled to the continent to work beside other winners of a National Science Foundation fellowship — research scientists studying the effects of climate change. “We hung out at McMurdo Station, the main base for the National Science Foundation,” he recalls. “My studio was a lab. We all shared a science building where we had our projects or experiments. I learned a little about the work [the scientists] did and was able to get scraps of samples they weren’t going to use to create these works.”

The view was memorable. “Outside my window was the continent, with the Transantarctic Mountains and McMurdo Sound frozen in the foreground,” Cortada describes. “And basically, the entire continent opens itself in front of you right there.” The scientists flew to various locations and returned with sea ice, glacial sediment and other samples from the Antarctic landscape. Cortada used some of these samples in his works, including a portrait of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton that Cortada delivered to the South Pole destination that eluded the Anglo-Irish explorer all his life.

After talking with the scientists, Cortada devised a plan. “I would take the very ice that threatens to calve off the continent and raise our sea levels, and melt it,” he explains. “Of course, during that time, chunks of ice the size of Caribbean islands were falling off the continent and going into the sea, and I tried to get pieces and create a conceptual work.”

By melting the ice on paper and adding pigment to create paintings that resembled an aerial view of Antarctica, Cortada says he recorded the process that threatens ecosystems and humanity and painted a precursor of things to come. “Looking out that window into the open continent of Antarctica, I saw the macrolevel of what nature was creating at the microlevel right there in my lab-turned-studio,” he says. “I saw the forces of heat energy transform the ice into little streams of water right there on the paper and create forms and shapes that move the sediment and pigment around, much like the continent has been transformed and wind and energy levels have eroded mountains and created glaciers.”

Cortada admits his work may differ from the other pieces on view in Adaptation. “It’s not about transforming the medium and making an art piece with it,” he explains. “It’s about having the art piece transform the way we see ourselves in relationship to each other and our planet. It’s about the serious adaptation we’re going to have to make as a species unless [people] want to see the precursor I depicted in that ice painting come to life right here on our coastline.”

On a lighter note, Tawnie Silva will exhibit a cartoonish, inflatable sculpture made from grocery and trash bags. Silva, whose solo show You Like Everything About Me, Except Me just closed at Butter Gallery, began creating inflatable sculptures three years ago while a resident at ArtCenter/South Florida. His sculpture “You Left Me Up Here” depicts a 4-foot-tall balloon-headed boy, and will have a fan blowing air into it. “Hopefully, it’s gonna be up in the corner of the wall or stuck to the ceiling like a balloon,” Silva says.

Those people who attended the Butter Gallery show may recognize balloon boy from the invitation. But rather than being an inflatable sculpture, he was a watercolor painting. Apparently, he has risen.

Adaptation will open 6-9 p.m. Friday and run through Aug. 1 at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St. Admission is $10. Call 954-921-3274 or visit Artandculturecenter.org.

Contact Colleen Dougher at cdougher@citylinkmagazine.com.