La Isla De Barro

Amy Bravo and Albert Peguero’s reimagined islands


By Kate Mothes

“There is more to a territory than its geographical location,” begins the exhibition text for Amy Bravo and Albert Peguero‘s dual exhibition La Isla De Barro. Beyond where roads end—where the land ends—is often seen as “other,” remote and detached, but in the artists’ immersive exhibition at Swivel Gallery, they instead posit that islands are meeting places, nexuses for exchange and cross-pollination.

La Isla De Barro imagines an enclave that is as much rooted in memory, personal narrative, and cultural heritage as it is in physical, geographical space. Here, Bravo and Peguero draw upon their own ideas of place and home to create an emotional geography that combines their distinctive histories and interests.

Incorporating layers of symbolic imagery and ephemera, Bravo’s powerful assemblages are drawn from the artist’s ongoing interest in her Cuban ancestry. Family stories are reimagined into large-scale paintings focused on energetic, commanding women who wield lassoes and weapons and ride bare-breasted on horseback. Complementing these heroic scenes, there is a tenderness to the unfinished edges of the canvases, and the addition of circulatory systems made from traditionally feminine materials like lace and thread that subtly suggest the origin of new life. Webbed with veins, the shrine-like A Curio becomes a living, breathing entity, and an intricate, mammalian heart is a love note to the tropics in the polysemous Heart of Palm. 

If Bravo’s works instil a sort of living spirit, Peguero’s architectural sculptures build the landscape. Undulating, house-like forms in slats of vibrantly painted wood are reminiscent of the traditional building aesthetic of his native Dominican Republic. Their surreal, Slinky-like forms appear to be on the move as if they are searching for a place to roost. In an exploration of ideas around what comprises a home and the experience of being a working class immigrant, Peguero constructs a cultural amalgamation from Dominican and American motifs. New York City Fruit #1, a chandelier comprised of ceramic, banana-shaped bottles contrasts the tropical climate where myriad fruits grow naturally with the sugary facsimiles sold in New York’s bodegas.

In this imagined territory, both artists plumb their personal and ancestral legacies to envision a fantastical encounter between place and spirit. Rather than being isolated or obscure, here islands are presented as intermediaries—both origins and destinations—the essence of which become as much a part of their inhabitants as their inhabitants are of them.

La Isla De Barro, co-curated by Anne-Laure Lemaitre and Bony Ramirez, is on view at Swivel Gallery through January 7, 2023.

Amy Bravo, Heart of Palm (Detail), 2022. Wood, epoxy clay, thread, lace, pigment, wax pastel, wire, and acrylic, 106 x 48 x 36 inches
Albert Peguero, New York City Fruit #1, 2022. Ceramic and metal, 29 x 20 x 20 inches
Albert Peguero, Tower (Detail), 2022. Wood and paint, 73 x 22 x 22 inches
Amy Bravo, A Curio (Detail), 2022. Acrylic, graphite, plaster, collage and found object, 52 x 22 x 3 inches
Albert Peguero, Se Fue La Luz, 2022. Wood, paint, and lights, 77 x 20 x 38 inches

All work © Amy Bravo and Albert Peguero, images courtesy of Swivel Gallery.

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