Language is a universal way of understanding, it’s our ability to communicate, listen, acknowledge, and understand one another. Abstract painting is a language unto itself and at its core, abstraction is a space for potential conversation. The potential for shared language was never greater than between Magnetic Fields at the Kemper Museum of Art and My Hand — Mi Mano at Kiosk Gallery. In both, the similarities between the work of Candida Alvarez and Cristina Muñiz made themselves known.
Both of these artists rely on our own brain’s faulty memory, its inability to perfectly recall a moment in time, but instead, a sum of its parts.In an era of hyperconnectivity, we share, discuss, and record everything quickly. However, there’s something inherently different about abstraction. While existing as an image, the paintings and drawings can be a space one can occupy. Shapes and colors become onto themselves a place that opposes the speed of our current culture. Both the work of Muñiz and Alvarez highlight the space of potential in what a painting can reveal.
In Muñiz’ space at The Drugstore Studios one finds a room filled to the brim with drawings and sketches. As her studio neighbor, I notice how she leaves room for visitors interpretations. While there might be a familiar shape or slight reference to a specific memory, Muñiz always finds a way to move one’s eye through composition to a point of potential. Muñiz is a masterful communicator, always leading her composition to the point of potential where the conversation begins in earnest. Her images are listening tools.l. In My Hand — Mi Mano, there are flattened worlds through breakages in visual communication. These link up with the layout of the paintings; picture planes undulate from one assumed perspective to another. While the viewer thinks they have found a flat sense of ground, Muñiz throws in another shape or color to turn what could be a banquet table into a car mirror. The shapes and colors shift from muted and simple to bold detail, each new section building on top of and erasing the one before it.
Knowing of the show My Hand — Mi Mano, Candida Alvarez’s work in Magnetic Fields utilizes a very similar play with the viewer’s sense of perspective and ability to find a narrative. The small works on paper Puerto Rico, 25796, Puerto Rico 25781, Puerto Rico, 25791, and Puerto Rico 25787 have a bright sense of shape that also sits opaquely on the surface, allowing the viewer to piece together narratives in the spaces in between. Even Alvarez’s black cherry pit uses similar scratch drawing techniques that Muniz implies to subdue the flatness of surface and shape, encouraging the viewer to closer examine their relationship to the space created.
After seeing both exhibitions the most striking takeaway was the notion that abstraction isn’t necessarily a visual choice, but a powerful driving force of how memories and histories manifest themselves. This communication is articulated in a seemingly familiar manner, yet in studio spaces secluded from one another. The curators at Kiosk Gallery and the Kemper Museum of Art are both bringing these artists to light and extending the potential for them to create a new movement. The works don’t leave a need to consider a lack, the women artists of color are fluently writing their own narratives through this universal language. The work of Alvarez and Muniz is incredibly important in this cultural moment. With political hijinx on a 24 hour cycle, one can become numb to the constant barrage. Abstraction is loud yet contemplative; both exhibitions force you to stop and breathe, looking inward and trusting your senses.
Cristina Muñiz: My Hand — Mi Mano ran from June 16th – July 13th, 2017 at Kiosk Gallery. Magnetic Fields ran from June 8th – September 17th, 2017 at the Kemper Museum of Art and will travel to the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. for more information on both exhibitions please visit kemperart.org and kioskgallerykc.com