A joint exhibition at Magnan Projects and Magnan Emrich Contemporary.
The creations of Rosa-Ortiz incorporate eye-catching pop culture icons with sustainable subtext. His unique “reverse sculpture” process, displayed in the much lauded Apparition of Fame, inspired by Jennifer Lopez’s infamous Versace dress worn at the 2000 Grammy Awards and That’s Not Art!, a play on Duchamp’s Fountain created out of bullet casings, the same type used by the U.S. Army in Iraq, uses the material “to outline the shapes in space, as opposed to using the material to create the form itself. The material is the skin which anchors the piece in a physical, historical and/or conceptual landscape…the work utilizes form and space to depict allegories of the reality of life and its spiritual origins. Form casting the reality, space its spirituality. Through this duality, the work attempts to capture snapshots of Anima: the breath of life, the soul.” It is this materialization that one encounters upon entering Milton’s Paradise in Magnan Projects. Viewers are met by a three-dimensional life-size form of Eve (Genesis 3:16), comprised of bright red glass beads and suspended from the ceiling by strands of monofilament, in the form of the female icon Marilyn Monroe. Behind her, in a nonchalant, cross-legged stance is Adam (Genesis 3:12) à la James Dean smoking a cigarette created out of blue glass beads with red beads representing Adam’s missing rib. Weaving throughout the gallery and between the two figures is a green Serpent.
Though Monroe and Dean are pop icons of feminity and masculinity they both were fraught with conflicting ideas of identity, sexuality, strength and self-awareness. Yet their public images and celebrity serve as projections of people’s desires. The perfect tool for the paradise Milton wishes to believe in. As Holland Cotter of The New York Times observes, “Milton Rosa-Ortiz [is] a poetic artist with an unsentimental eye…” Rosa-Ortiz explains, “The paradise of my imagination is not a perfect place; it is not an idyll realm free from taint and trouble. My paradise includes the side of the street where the sun doesn’t shine – it includes the religious fanatic and the anarchist non-believer. A paradise without shade would, after all, be blinding.”
Magnan Emrich Contemporary houses Genesis 3:24 (Flaming Sword) made of the bullet casings from the war. Flanking the sword is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: a montage of pieces of papers scattered from the World Trade Center that the artist collected in Brooklyn on 9/13. Among other works included are Genesis 3:11 (the Forbidden Fruit), and Genesis 2:7 (The Breath of Life) and Adam and Eve’s Leaves – which are reversed in this case. Another theme the artist explored while creating this exhibition is that of power in all its various forms: “female power; omnipotence; the power of belief and the power of respect; the power of a moment and the power of a metaphor… The power of irony represented in the flaming sword: that of protecting life by bombing it. As well as the power of ambiguity represented in the two leaves where sex and gender are flipped”