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Our Man in Havana: The Vacuum Cleaner in Art

Gallery Aferro
73 Market Street, 646-220-3772
April 21 - May 26, 2007
Reception: Saturday, April 21, 6 - 9 PM
Web Site

One of the various definitions of the word vacuum is “a partially exhausted space.”

Merav Ezer, Eliza Gagnon, Asha Ganpat, Ganzblum, Richard Herzog, Jessica Lagunas, Valeri Larko, Maria Adelaida Lopez, Karen Margolis, James Morgan + John Bruneau, Toni Pepe, MaryJo Rosania, Karen Zalamea, Bobby Zokaites

But as in forensics, where a milligram of dust can contain a complex narrative, 14 artists have made visible the hidden significances of a minor player in mostly domestic dramas: the vacuum cleaner. For the artists, this significance may be political, scientific, nostalgic or simply perverse.

Dedicated to James Murray Spangler*, an amateur inventor/department store janitor whose chronic lung problems may have inspired him to design the modern portable vacuum cleaner, the exhibit was in turn inspired by the work of Columbian-born Maria Adelaida Lopez. Lopez’s “dust houses” are replicas of those of her former employers from her grad-student/housecleaner days, made from the dust of vacuum cleaners. The artist has stated that her work is for “all the other Marias.”

The recurring nature of dust and dirt as a metaphor for resurrection and transformation is an underlying theme for many of the artists below. Eliza Gagnon will be presenting a video edited from interviews she did with an astonishing range of Americans on various aspects of dust and cleaning, including 9/11 dust, cleaning and sex, cleaning and race, and favorite cleaning product smells. Like many of the artists, Merav Ezer’s work is informed by her experiences as an emigrant from her country of origin. Using a vacuum, she creates molds of personal objects such as cigarettes and high heels, preserving them.

Bobby Zokaites rebuilds Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners for the function of painting. The algorithm that the machines use to vacuum rooms then becomes visible. The Roombas will be painting at the opening, petting is allowed.

Footnote: Without money to develop his invention, James Murray Spangler sold his patent to his cousin’s husband William Hoover in 1908.
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