Gallery Bienvenu (New Orleans, LA)
a catalogue essay by Richard Speer
The dazzling sculptures of New York-based artist Milton Rosa-Ortiz seduce the eye via luxurious materials, even as they harbor deeply layered conceptual underpinnings. Praised by The New York Times’ Holland Cotter as “a poetic artist with an unsentimental eye,” the artist has created a new series for Gallery Bienvenu of New Orleans as a satellite exhibition to Prospect.1, the largest contemporary art biennial in U.S. history. In this visually luscious, emotionally affecting body of work, the artist draws inspiration from narratives of heroism and resilience in the aftermath of 2005's devastating Hurricane Katrina.
"I was struck," Rosa-Ortiz remarks, "by the incredible energy and stamina that the people of New Orleans have shown as they’ve carried on with their lives.”
Inspired by the often merciless power of nature, the artist’s installations marry his longtime love of glamorous materials—black velvet, glittery stickpins, light boxes, and Swarovsky crystal dangling from the ceiling by clear wires—with a poignant emotional sensitivity that invites multifaceted social and political interpretation. The current body of work, referencing Louisiana maps and incorporating site-specific plaster castings, aims to transform grim memories of Katrina into images of hope.
“What I want to do,” he says, “is erase the sad or ugly images and replace them with beautiful ones.”
Born in 1967 in Puerto Rico, Rosa-Ortiz practiced architecture in the United States and Mexico before he fell in love with sculpture. His rhythmic spatial etudes, which he has referred to as “3-D pointillism” and “mobiles on L.S.D.,” reflect his interest in the relationship between solidity and negative space. In the traditions of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and contemporary English artist Cornelia Parker, his works are subtly kinetic, meditative, and mesmerizing in their interaction with light. He intends the suspended pieces “to defy reason... They’re infused with life; they move like schools of fish, and if there’s a gust, you can hear them clink.” Uniting visceral, intellectual, and spiritual qualities, the works speak to the uniquely human capacity to turn adversity into beauty and transcendence.
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