Arts & Entertainment

Miami art exhibit explores oil’s impact on a country, its people

By Ana Mengotti

Miami, Nov 17 (EFE).- A black circle representing oil drilling and the wealth it produces is the unifying element of “Petropias,” an art exhibit in Miami featuring the work of Venezuelan-born Tony Vazquez-Figueroa.

“It could also be a drain,” he said when asked by Efe if the black circle might symbolize the hole through which much of the oil wealth of Venezuela – now an impoverished and crisis-racked country – has disappeared.

“Maybe the wealth arrived too soon, and we weren’t able to digest it well,” said the 53-year-old artist, who has spent most of his life outside of his homeland.

Vazquez-Figueroa says it is regrettable that Venezuela was “one of the most abandoned Spanish colonies.”

“The printing press arrived (in Venezuela) 400 years after it was invented, while in Mexico it arrived just 30 or 40 years after” being invented, he recalled, though also marveling that in spite of its backwardness Venezuela managed to produce Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar and his forerunner, Francisco de Miranda.

Black is the predominant color of the exhibit, which will be inaugurated Friday at the LnS Gallery in Miami and include Vazquez-Figueroa’s sculptures, paintings and photographs of the past three years.

For visitors, it serves as an art installation on the impact large oil reserves have on a country and its inhabitants.

A nephew of Spanish writer and inventor Alberto Vazquez-Figueroa, the artist clarified to Efe that the black of his works is not Vantablack, a material that is one of the world’s darkest known substances and one to which famed British-Indian sculptor has exclusive artistic rights.

Although it does not absorb 99.965 percent of visible light, Vazquez-Figueroa said the black color he uses is dark enough to represent oil, a commodity that brought Venezuela abundance in the 20th century but caused it to eschew manufacturing with the logic that importing everything else from abroad was cheaper and easier.

A series of the artist’s photos show the affluent Venezuela of the 1970s, including images of Sheraton hotels, state-of-the-art refineries and service stations with extremely low-priced gasoline for sale.

A black circle appears in some of the photos, while others are completely covered by a black acrylic paint save for a circular section in the middle that gives the impression the image is being viewed by a telescope.

The title of the exhibition, curated by Tami Katz-Freiman, hearkens back to Michel Foucault’s heterotopia (“other spaces”), a concept that 20th-century French philosopher elaborated to describe cultural, institutional and discursive spaces that are “other,” worlds within worlds that upset what is around them.

“I lived in a Petropia (Venezuela) and learned to love it and understand it with its enormous defects and my enormous voids. I was hurled into a world, into a Petropia, and I found my path in it, escaping some of the terrible ideas that were imposed on me,” Vazquez-Figueroa said.

The exhibit, which will run until Jan. 22, 2022, welcomes the visitor with a giant replica of an open and black-painted oil barrel with an image of Caracas’ sky – seemingly floating in space – at its bottom.

On one of the walls a series of tubes and cubes in black acrylic recreate the image of an oil refinery as seen via Google Earth, while on another material placed in a patchwork represents the poor neighborhoods that surround Venezuela’s cities.

Vazquez-Figueroa bids the visitor farewell with a sculpture of the artist’s head that is made of silicon and covered in bitumen, an extremely slow-flowing substance obtained from petroleum. EFE


Related Articles

Back to top button