Violence, apathy, colonialism and modernization are the many themes explored in the "Landlocked" exhibition that opened Friday at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe, which not only showcases the final product of artist Miguel Angel Rios' work but the process of how he created his art.
Rios made a series of 22 videos, 10 of which were shown in the exhibition. All represented different themes, but the most fascinating part of it all was the way the videos were showcased. They were presented in a dark room with four screens on each wall of the room. Instead of playing the videos on each screen simultaneously, they were played on one screen that rotated around the room per video.
ASU Art Museum curator Julio Cesar Morales said this technique made for a better viewer experience.
“I thought instead of having 10 rooms to show 10 videos, why we don’t build one room, where the videos move around," he said. "That way we have more space to make audiences feel like they are walking into a studio.”
The project has been in the works for nearly three years, but Morales was introduced to Rios' artwork 10 years ago. He was so wowed by Rios that he decided to curate a survey show of his video work, not only in Tempe, but also in Phoenix.
“One of the things I like a lot about Miguel is his process, the way he thinks," Morales said. "He is what you call an artist’s artist. He is very influential of other artists of different generations of Latin America.”
Rios' most famous work is "The Ghost Of Modernity," a short film that showcases a transparent glass cube floating in the air through various locations in Brazil, Mexico and Peru, both urban and rural. The film is silent and features no humans in it, but focuses on interactions with the various locations presented in the video.
In some scenes, the cube appears to be very heavy, while other times, the glass appears to defy gravity and be lighter than a feather. The videos seems to nod at Modernism and made viewers ask the question, “Are we inside the cube or are we outside the cube?”
Nine videos followed "The Ghost Of Modernity," all of which uniquely showcased the creativity of Rios. The one that stood out the most was the video "Crudo." The video featured a male dancer performing the malambo, an Argentine gaucho dance, which features a performer dancing with leather sacks of stone.
In the video, however, the sacks of stone were replaced with raw meat slabs. The dancer starts off the performance peacefully, but is abruptly interrupted when a number of dogs try to attack the dancer in an effort to get the meat. The dancer continues and eventually the dogs give up and run away, showing a will of the human spirit and a focus on not letting obstacles get in your way.
Rios first started off as an artist in New York City. He escaped his native country of Argentina in the late '70s, when the country was going through violent conflict.
For years, Rios studied other artists and museums, before deciding to make work of his own. In order to create that work, Rios decided to go back to his hometown.
“I had to go back to the local town of which I came
from, behind the mountains in order to create something universal," he said.
Rios would go back to his childhood spent in his hometown of Catamarca for inspiration.
“Most of what you will see are of games I used to play when I was 6 or 7," he said. "I didn’t have toys to play with, rather I would invent toys.”
Chairman of the ASU Art Museum Board Greg Lehman is one of the many people who admire Rios' work.
“I admire the artists (Rios) longevity," he said. "His ability to perform his craft over the years is really fascinating."
"Landlocked" is running until Dec. 26 at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe. For more information, click here.