Summertime, a vibrant and provocative new exhibition opens at FACTION Art Projects this week. The show features the works of New York artists; Julio Valdez, Lina Puerta, Leeza Meksin, Adrian Kondratowicz and Alexis Duque.
The exhibition includes varied and diverse responses to the joy and sometimes stifling heat and legacy of summertime. Exploring both the aesthetics of the season and the fundamental but often less visible costs that summertime incurs, the works in this show push us to question to whom and what do we owe the joy that summer brings, from the migrant workers and fruit pickers laboring in an intense summer heat, to the concern and foreboding for our changing and rapidly warming climate.
Julio Valdez’s work draws on a fascination with the natural elements. The series of his pieces shown in Summertime are a nod to the elemental joys of summertime, particularly in relation to water and the sea. Water, for Valdez, is a metaphor for the human spirit, and his paintings evoke the familiar sensual pleasures of summertime’s association with the sea. Valdez, who is also currently represented in the Venice Biennale as part of the Dominican Republic Pavilion, has long explored these themes in relation to ecosystem, the gradual environmental degradation of his home country, as well as spatial and social flows.
Leeza Meksin’s works in this show explore the theme of the Anthropocene and how the human production of plastics, dyes and other harmful but highly used materials effect environmental change, particularly in relation to climate change. A teacher at Columbia’s University School of the Arts, Meskin’s work often explores the notions of home and belonging, questioning what it means to be a "native" in a particular culture or land. Issues of migration, assimilation and forced diaspora are discussed in her work through the juxtaposition of unlikely materials and mediums.
Adrian Kondratowicz’s painting is an exploration of superflat color, and in this show his pieces work as abstractions of the summer as perceived in the 5th dimension. The medium is made by, first, creating a glaze of acrylic watercolor that dries on top of a glass surface, before the dried undersurface of acrylic, latex and enamel is peeled away from this surface. The remaining medium is similar to an acrylic skin, a palimpsest of sorts that poses questions about the sustainability of social, spatial and economic processes. A previous project by Kondratowicz that involved designing and using aesthetically pleasing trash bags for Harlem was featured in The New York Times.
Alexis Duque creates fantastical cities; microcosms that have developed along organic, planet-like clusters. They contour and wrap around themselves, or spring up on recognizable icons and objects such as skulls and other familiar pop culture relics. His work portrays overdevelopment, abandonment and decay where only a few inhabitants are depicted. Buildings start to crumble and what’s left is a human wasteland. Relics of consumerism and waste, such as signs and logos like those of Ford motorcars and Campbell’s soup, are juxtaposed with Buddha statues and birds. Duque’s work has previously been exhibited at El Museo del Barrio.
Lina Puerta’s tapestries bring the labor of summertime into visibility, demanding us to confront the persistence of the plantation geographies as well as inequity and violence that are inseparable from the palate of summertime. In both color and materials, her tapestries are abundant, just like summertime. She combines lace, linen pulp and cotton, beads, ribbons, chains, but also butterfly wings, feathers, fur and other organic material in colors that evoke the exuberance of summertime. Puerta was recipient of the Sustainability Award at Artprize-8 in 2016.
For more on how this show interrogates the idea and experience of summertime, see our commissioned exhibition essay.