Concerning the Spiritual in Art

Aluna Art Foundation, Miami

By Deborah Castellanos | January 21, 2013

“Concerning the Spiritual in Art”, Aluna Art Foundation’s inaugural exhibit for this alternative curatorial space that opened its doors in August, showcased a collection of works by a group of artists both renowned and unrepresented within the Miami art scene, that reflect their search for “the spiritual in art”.

Concerning the Spiritual in Art

Kandinsky had written in his book of 1911 about a new abstract language born of the genuine inner necessity of artists for spirituality and freedom, considering that artists should be “deaf to the transitory teaching and demands of (their) particular age” and that art had to be born from within. This spiritual quest initiated in modernism is recaptured a century later here, in the midst of contemporaneity, where after the end of utopias, the search for spirituality becomes once again one of the driving forces behind artistic creation.

Aluna’s curatorial collective, composed of art historian Willy Castellanos and art critic Adriana Herrera, have put together an exhilarating collection of eleven artists working in diverse media, all embarked upon the same dialogue with the spiritual and the mystical – yet in their own unique way. The splendid variety of media excites the visual senses by conveying in different languages the materialization of the invisible relation with spirituality, while generating new interesting dialectics within contemporary art.

The central space of the gallery features a group show by the Colombians Jorge Cavalier and Sara Modiano (1951-2010), the Argentinean Nicolás Leiva, the Venezuelans Andrés Michelena, Evelyn Valdirio and Lili(ana) González, and the Cubans Heriberto Mora and Raimundo Travieso.

Upon entering the exhibit, visitors discover Cavalier’s striking installations: a mix of large canvases and a series of curved laser-cut labyrinth and circular aluminum sculptures that deal with the imagery of the forest as a medium for spiritual regeneration and cyclical renewal of the soul. Equally large is Leiva’s experimental, artisanal, carved diptych mural − initially in metal over a wooden base, it becomes part of the final piece that contains traces of the process of creation, symbolically named after Proverbs from the Bible. Also executed in metal is Modiano’s abstract cubic wire mesh installation Ser 4 of 2002, which creates a three dimensional space that perpetually extends into infinity through the reflection of the cubes into the mirrors in its base.

Lili(Ana)’s bright Anotaciones de lo Invisible (2007/2010) also depict in a three dimensional manner the ephemerality of life and the powerful experience of spirituality. Similarly powerful, but dark, are Michelena’s exploration of the cosmic Buddhist void. The black paintings and the acrylic sculpture of Buddha Empty Nest (2008) evoke the emptiness, openness, interconnectedness and impermanence of all things, immersing the spectator in a deep reflective trance. Valdirio’s angel depictions are equally impressive: her canvases fill the room with powerful visions of angels surrounding the dark paths of human masses in history. They are a cry for protection and spiritual guidance.

The performance of American artist Billie Grace Lynn − part of her ongoing Mad Cow project − was among the highlights of the show. Dealing with themes of slaughterhouse cruelty and environmental degradation, it started with a ceremonial walk of a calf’s skeleton held on strings by visitors –almost animated by a collective spiritual breath, immediately after which she sat on a milking stool and invited spectators to take turns in cutting her hair. An act of desperation, loss, fear, pain and self-mutilation, Lynn’s performance connected her spiritually to the souls of these animals and in a wider sense, to the suffering of the Earth as it cries out for help. The exhibition induces a strange reverence towards not only the spiritual represented through these pieces, but towards man himself.