Friday, May 22, 2015

Millennial Baroque: Hector Bitar at Longhouse Projects through May 31

 Light in the Absence of Light I, 2014
Mixed media on wood, 
35 1/2  x 23 1/2 x 11 3/4 inches *

Mexican architect turned full-time artist  Héctor Bitar is a find.  And that says a lot in a city teaming with artists from all over the world.  Yet, located in the far-reaches of West Soho (aka Hudson Square), this new talent has emerged amid our tumultuous crowd with heaps of industrially-made and natural materials fashioned into elegant bas-reliefs. The results are literally stunning - arresting in their richness and complexity.  Flamboyant, gigantic and boldly charged with content, one can only call this work "baroque." 
Lilac and Gold, 2015
Mixed media on wood
44 3/4 x 29 x 12 inches*

Moreover, the installation is very well considered.  Bitar's black works, grouped together in the first galleries, create a serious, brooding mood.  As we walk through the space, we discover a doorway that frames the gold pieces in another room.  This contrast is surprising after such a lugubrious introduction. Moving from darkness (the black series Light in the Absence of Light) to full-tilt iridescence, this glittering light seems strategically ominous in its deliberate preciousness.  

Light in the Absence of Light III, 2014
Mixed media on wood
55 x 55 x 14 inches*

Seduced by darkness or light, we easily recognize that these works exploit and explore the detritus of our age.  For here are thickly layered fabrics, cords, bubble wrap and tubing embedded on a flat plane, united by a monochrome: black or gold paint. The dark works remind me of  Robert Morris' "Apocalypse" collages of the 1980s and Auguste Rodin's churning figures in the Gates of Hell (begun in 1880 and never finished); the gold reliefs shine like gilded Louis XIV furniture.

Grey and Gold, 2015
Mixed media on wood and plexiglas cover
44 3/4 x 29 x 8 1/2 inches*

These jammed-packed "sculptures" need long-looking and deep-thinking. What does this all mean juxtaposed on one surface?  Is the artist criticizing our abundance of products and waste? Or is this a millennial Abstract Expressionism fit for our excessive dependency on things - in particular, these things?

Light in the Absence of Light V, 2014
Mixed media on wood panel
63 x 47 x 9 3/4 inches*

It may well be that Héctor Bitar is not campaigning for environmental justice. Rather, his work comes from emotional engagement disciplined by years of studying and designing architecture. The artist writes on his website: "My pieces emerge at the confluence of two distinct efforts - a defiance of my background in architecture and the quest to depict an expression of emotion rather than an illustration of it. At the locus of these two trajectories, these large-scale [relief-like] works emerge. [... They] fundamentally engage like sculptures, as one is drawn in by the sheer voluptuous density of material, which reveal a tension between the rational mind and emotional release in the act of creation."  

So be it.  But no one can spend time with Bitar's works and not think about how much of this stuff ends up in the garbage once we exhaust it usefulness. And yet, these works are not about recycling either. They are simply beautiful. Twentieth-first century Baroque beautiful and far more rewarding to study in person than in these digital images.
Cherry and Gold, 2015
Mixed media on wood and plexiglas cover
37 x 25 x 9 3/4 inches*

Héctor Bitar lives in Mexico City and New York. He was born in 1970 in Mexico City, studied business administration at the Universidad Iberoamericana and then pursued a degree in architecture at the Universidad Anahuac del Norte. He founded Bitar Architects Firm in 2011, wherein he combined his architectural practice with his artistic bent. Today he concentrates exclusively on his art. His work belongs to public and private collections in Mexico, North America, Europe and the Middle East.

Héctor Bitar: Light in the Absence of Light closes next Sunday, May 31st. Longhouse Projects is located at 285 Spring Street, between Varick and Hudson Streets.   *All images courtesy of Longhouse Projects

Best wishes for the Memorial Day Weekend,
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director, New York Arts Exchange

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