When Amaru Chiza walked into the opening reception of the Bronx Art Space’s third art biennial on September 7, he flushed with joy.
The Mott Haven gallery was filled with art enthusiasts who had come to support the contemporary works of 14 local and international Latin American artists. His 48”x 60” untitled abstract piece was on display. It was the first time a gallery in the borough had featured the Morrisania artist’s work.
“I want to show my art to my people,” he said.
The Space’s 2012 biennial is called Isolation of the Collective Memory. It focuses on illusory correlation, a psychological phenomenon where people make connections between things that have no obvious link.
Chiza, 62, combines architectural and abstract elements in his canvases. He uses non-traditional materials as well as geometric and asymmetrical shapes to express his perspective on the world around him. It’s an aesthetic that he began exploring in the ‘60s while studying at the National School of Fine Arts in his native Ecuador’s Central University—where he earned a degree in architectural design, painting and graphics.
When he came to the US in 1975, his work began to evolve from constructivism, a more structured, intellectual art form, to abstract art, which was more instinctive.
“When I want to do construction, I start with a sketch,” he said. “It’s intellectual then. The abstract comes from inside.”
He combines the two elements together to create mixed media.
In Chiza’s Morrisania studio, an industrial-looking canvas hangs on a wall. The three-dimensional construction includes parallel sticks positioned below the painting. The sticks appear to be made of metal, but are really made of wood. Another piece nearby is just as deceptive. The untitled white creation resembles biodegradable packaging foam, but it is made entirely of cotton paper.
“Sometimes what the artist tries to express is not necessarily what you see,” said Alexis Mendoza, a co-curator of the Mott Haven show. “The final stroke of the work is when the audience engages in a discussion about the work with the artist because it has to be interpreted as what the artist wanted to express.”
The Space hopes the biennial will challenge any stigma that might be attached to art in the Bronx.
“I hope we can encourage people that go to Manhattan for art to put our show on their calendar,” Mendoza said. “We’re trying to show people that quality art exists in the Bronx.”
The 2012 Bronx Latin American Art Biennial runs at the Bronx Art Space through September 30. There will be additional exhibitions of the biennial at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, The Gordon A. Parks Gallery (John Cardinal O’Connor Bronx Campus of the College of New Rochelle), The Bronx Music Heritage Center, and the Boricua College Art Gallery through November 30. Visit www.bronxartspace.com for more information.