From Apr 17th through Jun 27th, 2009. The Museum of Contemporary Art presents the first comprehensive solo museum exhibition of Luis Gispert. The exhibition features large-scale photographs, videos, sculpture and film, dating from 1999 to the present, and will be on view at the museum’s satellite gallery, MOCA at Goldman Warehouse in the Wynwood Art District from April 11th to June 27th, 2009.
Luis Gispert was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1972 and was raised in Miami. “This exhibition provides the opportunity to reflect on the past nine years of work,” said Bonnie Clearwater, MOCA Executive Director and exhibition curator. “Previous critical analyses focused primarily on the multi-cultural and hip hop imagery in his work. This exhibition highlights the psychological romanticism and connection to the conventions of filmmaking that has persisted throughout Gispert’s career.” In much of his work, Gispert aimed to reclaim the powerful visceral, acoustical, and psychological impact he experienced as a youth watching films by Luis Bunuel, Federico Fellini, and Michelangelo Antonioni. He is driven to create work that lives up to the cinematic sublime.
Gispert describes the first ten years of his career as a period during which he underwent a personal transformation in his attempt to comprehend why certain objects and events strike him physically and emotionally. Always, there is the push- and-pull between seduction and aggression in his work that inundates the viewer’s senses. His photographs, videos, films and sculptures are complex, composed arrangements that delve into the familiar and the unknown, the mainstream and the marginalized, to expose and address the various subcultures that infiltrate the mainstream. These subjects also provided him the means to explore the sheer aggressiveness and excessiveness of the hip-hop ornamentation or the effusively decorated interior of his immigrant family’s homes. Similarly the volume of the rap lyrics lip-synched by a cheerleader in Can it be that it was all so simple then, 2001 or the unnerving scream of a car alarm mouthed by another cheerleader in Block Watching, 2002 is overwhelming. His most recent photographs of landscapes viewed through the windows of customized vehicles achieve the widescreen grandeur of CinemaScope film and provide the viewer the sensation of occupying the driver’s seat. He shot hundreds of sheets of film for each landscape in an attempt to capture the perfect vista, but ultimately photo shopped various details to produce landscapes that most closely adhered to his ideal.
Gispert’s cheerleader series of lush, color photographs depicting cheerleaders accessorized with the hip hop gold chains and jewelry, first brought him to the art world’s attention. Although this series was perceived as a reference to popular culture and cultural identity, Gispert approached the subject from the perspective of Baroque religious paintings depicting levitating saints at moments of epiphany and the conventions of sports photography, which established the iconic image of the sports hero in mid-air. The cheerleader photographs were achieved with cinematic techniques and methods to produce special effects, most notably the green-screen. Gispert used a long exposure to photograph his models suspended on wires in a chroma-key green room. In movies, actors play against the green background, which is typically superimposed onto another backdrop to complete the illusion. Gispert, however, retained the green field to reveal the artifice. By using cheerleaders photographed in mid-air action, Gispert composes a scene that is plausible enough to willfully suspend the viewer’s disbelief.
Filmmaking has played a major role in Gispert’s career. He has consistently contrasted films that use the syntax of cinema as exercises in the manipulation of sound, image and film time, as in Stereomongrel, 2005 and Smother, 2008, with raw, aggressive videos that deliberately contradict film conventions.
The exhibition opens with Gispert’s most recent work, a three-channel film entitled Rene, 2008 that marks a new chapter for Gispert. In this multi-media installation he moves away from the self-analysis and narrative of his previous film Smother to make an intimate cinematic portrait of a friend in which he aimed to subdue the craft of filmmaking in a search for purity. Gispert followed Rene and filmed him in his daily routines for a week. The film is projected on three screens simultaneously. “Although there is no narrative structure there is an arch of action from waking up, to eating breakfast, going to work, and then going to sleep,” notes Gispert. He avoided using techniques that would pull the viewer into the film.
Gispert has used elements of destruction to designate the end of one phase of his career and the beginning of another. He always approaches new projects by trying to work himself out of a problem. This occasionally requires the obliteration of the past and has manifested itself in a sculpture composed of all the props and hip hop ornamentation that he used in his Cheerleader series or the fictitious baptism of a pet dog (representing himself as a child) by fire in order to liberate his creativity in his film Smother.
Gispert attended Miami-Dade Community College before receiving his BFA from The School of the Art Institute in Chicago and an MFA in Sculpture from Yale University. His earliest creative recognition was tied to his participation in a group of young South Florida-based artists who challenged the reigning paradigms of Latino representation. Gispert’s vividly colored photographs and booming sound sculptures have since been shown widely throughout the United States as well as in Europe, South America, and the Middle East including the Royal Academy of Arts, London, Whitney Museum of American Art, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and Studio Museum of Harlem.
At MOCA, North Miami, Gispert’s work was featured in 2000 in the exhibition Making Art in Miami: Travels in Hyperreality and his video Stereomongrel was part of Pivot Points: New Mythologies in 2008, which highlighted works in the museum’s permanent collection.
MOCA at Goldman Warehouse
404 NW 26th Street
Miami, FL 33127