Monday, January 18, 2010

Leyden Rodriguez Casanova's An Uneven Floor

"An Uneven Floor" seen from the outside gallery window (left-hand side elevation)

Alfredo Triff

What are these people doing (in the photo above)? Is this a private party? A carpet show? A recreational space for children? A conference? A reunion of sorts?

"An Uneven Floor" is a installation that opened last Saturday at Locust Projects in the Design District. The title of the exhibit is conveyed so literally as to elicit bafflement. Artist Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova has built two promontories inside the gallery space and carpeted the whole thing in bright pink. That's it.

(Right-hand side elevation)

To understand the direct correspondence between title ----> art-work we have to do a little history: For a good part of the last decade, Rodriguez-Casanova has produced a kind of auto-biographical œuvre that exhibits very little intervention. Let's address the latter first. The idea is to present objects as they appear in everyday-life as they relate to the artist's personal history. To put it simply: If the painted sunset is art, why not bring the sunset and show it as art?1

This is exactly the point of Three Lamps with Different Lights (2007):

Or Overturned Pink Chair, (2006, below). Both pieces refer exactly what's stated by their titles.

One obvious conclusion is that Rodriguez-Casanova removes one step in traditional art representation. He just "presents."2 Surely, this presentation requires planning (and a slightly different craft).3

 A Mirroed-Wall (2006)

Walls divide and support. Mirrors reflect. The mirroring in the title of the installation   above brings forth a conceptual redundancy, which, instead of "numbing meaning" (as when one repeats a word indefinitely), actually opens up a semiotic horizon where the artwork can be perceived more openly -and not without bafflement.

Back to "Uneven Floor," Rodriguez-Casanova wants us to think about things other than floor/geodesics. In fact, one could ponder the show's title as a case of metalepsis. What I'm getting at is that the most interesting point about the exhibit is not its unevenness. Rodriguez-Casanova's "as is" furniture as well as the gently-sloped pink-carpeted gallery floor, brings forth passed-over aspects of our daily practices as they go on amidst furniture and floors. How come?

The issue of "evenness" is suddenly brought to the fore, but as a "distance," as we come to perceive the floor in the absence of a "normal," leveled floor. More than thinking about it, Rodriguez-Casanova wants us to "feel it." This passage by Jacques Derrida in his Parages (p. 36) may help put this in perspective:

The more one is tempted to come near the proximity of that which is approaching, the more wholly other -and thus infinitely distanced- of proximity buries or empties itself. 

If Rodriguez-Casanova's art can "present" at a par with reality, it must take a change of mood from immersion to awareness. Said differently, even as one checks out Rodriguez-Casanova's exhibit, one can still miss the "unevenness" of the floor.       

And yet, the artist's "presentation" is not without risks: As art and reality are interpenetrated, art risks becoming as banal as reality itself. Then, something as authentic as one's own narrative can end up stifled, by the seduction of nostalgia, which makes the distancing from oneself the more difficult.

That said, the public at the show couldn't stop talking about the pink-all-over phenomenon. Momentarily, I looked for psychological associations. These disparate quotes belong in a book about the psychology of color, published in 1961:4

*Pink and tints of blue and violet are decidedly "sweet."
*The babies stared longest at yellow, then white, pink, red. Least attention was paid to black, green, blue, and violet.
*Bathrooms should be pink to give the skin a luminous glow through reflection.
*Pink and yellow mosquito curtains do not harbor insects.

According to Michael Hamphill, women respond to pink, more overtly than men (which is to be expected given that girls are conditioned to this color since they are infants).5  In addition, Lucretius described dawn as "pink" in his famous poem On the Nature of Things. Oscar Wilde's favorite color was... Yet, these facts are totally irrelevant.

The choice of pink has to do with Rodriguez-Casanova's own experience growing up in a house of Cuban immigrants whose idea of interior decoration was rather peculiar -and which was not that far from the norm of other Cuban exiles in Miami during the late 1960's and early 1970's. This fact explains The Light Behind Pink Blinds (2007).

It's worth mentioning that the show is a lot of fun: I saw children climbing up, sliding down and rolling all over the carpet. Adults were less adept, but nonetheless walked up and down the slopes -as if testing the firmness of the props beneath them. Everybody looked around (at the environment containing themselves?). Many were puzzled. 

The director of Locust Projects told me how different the space looked without people in it. But then, would it be "uneven," or "pink"? 

1 This brings a crucial distinction between Nature and art. Art is, by definition, man-made. 2 A sort of Wildean twist where "Life imitates art." See Oscar Wilde's The Decay of Laying (Harper and Row, 1989, p. 982). 3 This new craft can definitely make stuff, but being more conceptually-driven, it generally plans and produces. 4 Faber Birren's Color Psychology and Color Therapy: A Factual Study of the Influence of Color on Human Life (University Books, 1961). 5 Note on Adults' Color-Emotion Associations. Article by Michael Hemphill, Journal of Genetic Psychology, (Vol. 157, 1996).


Anonymous said...

point well taken. he seems to do very little, but it makes you think. not the kind of stuff i'd buy thouh.

Turin Charles

Feminista said...

Triff: I'm no expert. For what I see his art is conceptual and a bit dry for my taste. I don't mean it in a bad sense; what I mean is that all the juice is mental.

luis.jimenez017 said...

La alfombra rosada es la más atrozada obra de arte que he yo e sido testigo de en mis 20 anos de vida. El horror de la alfombra de felpa con su sombra rosada fluorescente parece como algo de un motel barato construido en los años 70’s. Esto no es arte, esto ni siquiera se acerca a lo que yo entiendo como arte. No veo ningún concepto, artesanía, y absolutamente ningún talento cuando miro a esta alfombra. Mi idea de lo que se parece el arte es muy diferente a lo que veo cuando una alfombra rosada es puesta en una habitación con el piso en angulos irregulares. Arte en mi opinión, debe ser algo que es imaginativo, de difícil ejecución, y sobre todo debe ser algo original. Sin embargo, todo lo que veo cuando miro a esta alfombra es una mala elección de colores, una alfombra irregular, y en el peor caso possible podría hasta haber sido fabricado y ordenado por el artista, algo que descalifica por completo el artista de talento y artesanía. La alfombra habla por sí mismo y el "artista". En pocas palabras, la alfombra se parece horrible y en mi opinion no es arte.
-Luis Jimenez

Anonymous said...

Quiza esa es la idea.

andres said...

I believe that we can find art everywhere, and it does not necessarily have to be amenable to the human’s eyes. Imagine going to one of the most precious places in our planet; one of those that it is still virgin from the hands of the man. Isn’t it art what you see there? Yes my dear friend… it is art made by nature. And its composition might be regular in some occasions, but usually the irregularity of the things is what makes them attractive to our eyes.
I have only witnessed one thing in my entire life that was called art and it really was disgusting to my eyes. I watched on the television once this guy that starved his dog for months in a an art gallery.
***By the way, I loved all the pictures, specially, the Overturned Pink Chair.

Heidi said...

There is something about art which makes all of us sit and wonder what it could be. For example, hundreds of people have stared at the Mona Lisa for years trying to “decipher” what is its significance. Why can’t the painting just be about a woman modeling for the picture? Why does art make us imagine ideas and questions which, may possibly, not even be there. Personally, I like the way the artist has expressed her ideas in the form of color and irregular shapes. It gives it a different twist to perspective, but I don’t believe its art. I compare her work to poems and poems are not art it’s just a form of expressing ideas and others trying to figure out what was tried to be said.


Alina said...

Mi opinión personal acerca de lo que se refiere hacer arte es como Andrés dijo yo no estoy de acuerdo con la manera de pensar de Luis ya que pienso que el arte no tiene porque ser algo difícil hecho por el ser humano. Al contrario, solamente por el hecho de tener una nueva idea, algo único del artista lo hace ser arte. A lo que me refiero es que para algunas personas como en mi caso tuvo gran significancia el sofá virado hacia abajo, solamente ver esta instalación me ha hecho pensar tantas cosas como en qué dirección esta mi vida, a la misma vez me hace ver como este mundo en donde vivimos un día está muy bien y al otro día todo esta súper mal. Ya al tener algo un significado yo creo que se puede ver como arte pues desde el mismo momento que crea una idea en la vida de otra persona ya es arte. ¿Entonces qué no es arte si todo lo que las personas ven los hace hacer pensar? A mí también me han gustado mucho las distintas ideas de arte que este artista ha llegado a traer al público, bien creativo.

Isaac.chacon said...

My idea of what art is can be related to a popular saying that says: An image is worth more than a thousand words. In my opinion, just with taking a look at a painting, a mural, or even a statue, each one of us can have different impressions of what that piece of art symbolizes. I think that the Cuban artist Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova does a magnificent job creating speculation of what his creations could actually represent. Each design gives a sense of mystery and uncertainty to the audience and opens their imagination. It is fascinating how each composition it’s very simplistic and at the same time can be interpreted in so many abstract ways (in particular the uneven floor and the overturned pink chair).

I think what makes a piece of art special is the mental image and significance we give to it. Once we lock our imagination to think beyond what we see in front us, the design stops being art. Every author wants the audience to put their own mental touch to their designs. It is our perception and our ability to visualize beyond what we see with our eyes what makes a piece of work becomes a piece of art.

Isaac Chacon

Danay Calzadilla said...

When I look at the art form chosen by Leyden Rodriguez Casanova I am torn between two ideas. The first comes from my Cuban background, and accepts her representation of our culture as extravagant, out of the ordinary and distinguishable unleveled. The lives of the Cuban community has been marked by the ups and downs (represented by the uneven shape of the carpet) that have been closely related to our history in the island and here in the states, while the color stands out and makes us “different”. However another side of me tends to believe that we are stretching the concept of art to fit every person. Not every one can be an artist. Why do we recognize Dali , Michelangelo and Picasso over every other painter that has gone through history? Because their art was magnificent, not ordinary. This art form that Casanova has chosen portrays “ordinary”, “everyday” ideas, but true art goes beyond the everyday. It seeks to create something beautiful, splendid and brilliant. Heidi mentioned that the Mona Lisa was ordinary… but she was made extraordinary. That’s art. Art takes something simple and makes it great .

Danay Calzadilla

miamibourbaki said...

Thanks for the comments. Don't mind me.

Marice37 said...

Art for me is not drawings, paintings, and architecture only. What makes something a work of art is everything that captures beauty, emotions, or the ugliness of things as well. Art can be food, cars, jewerly or just a frame full of colors that portray an emotion of the painter. I will say that if a work is conceptualized with true conviction it can therefore be considered artistic. Sometimes, I stop and think what would this world be without art? Then I look at the desk I am sitting right now while I write this post, and acknowledge that everything in life is art.
-Marice Guzman

miamibourbaki said...

Then I look at the desk I am sitting right now while I write this post...

Exactly! There's an element of "close attention" involved that separates the rest of the world from this moment when the desk (mine, yours) becomes art. And what does that mean?

odette said...

Totalmente de acuerdo con Marice, no solo la pintura, la música, la escultura etc. para mi es el único arte que existe. Al contrario el arte esta en nuestro alrededor cada vez que miramos una creación humana. Para mi el arte es ese sentimiento que siente un ser humano cuando hace una creación, sea lo que sea y en el lugar que sea. Da igual que sea poner una alfombra rosada en an "uneven floor" o Davinci con "La Gioconda", o hasta Tchaikovsky con "El lago de los cisnes". El punto es cada uno de estos seres humanos tuvieron una idea en sus manos y la llevaron a cabo. Este es el verdadero arte la creación tan espectacular de estas personas, por supuesto unos más famosos que otros, y aló mejor unos más “talentosos” si podemos llamarlo así. Pero al final todos están expresando una idea, todos expresan una visión más del mundo.

-Odette Novoa

Giovanni Bonilla said...

Art allows the person to communicate “meaning” towards the world as a whole, without the use of a type of written language. Unlike words and numbers which follow a certain type of sequence and each have a definite meaning, art provides a long range of meaning in form of shapes and symbols. Many civilizations before us used art as a way to communicate with others and it’s the only the evidence we have of their existence. Through it, we can somewhat get a “feel” of what their culture was about, lifestyle, beliefs and things that only through our imaginations we can find understanding. Art today comes in several shapes and forms and it doesn’t only have to be through paintings or some type of structure. It comes through music, movies, poetry and any time of communication that allows one to think and wonder. Art is a way to convey one’s emotions, and a certain mood of a moment through some type of creative representation that can be understood worldwide.

Claudia Campos said...

Art is everything and anything we want to see as art. I believe this peculiar way of expressing art is even better art than what many consider art to be. A painting is art; a poem is art, a kid climbing a hill is art, an ant on a piece of ceramic is art, a table with makers is art, a human being is art. Art for me is everything we see on a daily basis and so much more. We see a pink curtain with the bright like coming in very often; does that mean it’s not art? Or a pink hill? That to me, is extremely artistic. I see art as one of the most meaningful words that exist. However, many people see it as in a closed box, where only paintings and sculptures belong. Why? Why should art be closed if the world is art? From the most beautiful mountains to the most artistic sunsets, art is present. From the birth of a child to the opening of a flower, from the mind of a human to a pink overturned sofa, art exists. Art is art! Art is everything. Art has no limits. However, human beings do, and therefore, it is difficult to understand the capacity and extension of such word.
Claudia Campos

Jordan said...

This reminds me of that whole "relational aesthetics" trend...think "CONVENTION" at MoCA. Considering the relationship between people and their environments- what influences what? How much do aesthetics impact our perception of a place?

Regardless, as art moves farther and farther away from its traditional forms (painting, drawing, sculpting, photography, etc...) and into a more concept-driven state, where aesthetics or technique no longer matter, I see it degenerating. If anything can be art, than everything is art, and art ceases to exist at all.

Camila Barranco said...

Like most of my classmates I believe art can be anything; from the ordinary to the extraordinary. We have created concepts for what is right, wrong and now even for what is art. Who determines if something is art or not? Everyone should have the opportunity to express their work and I am sure many will have followers despite how ordinary it is. Even though I found the carpet very creative I see Rodriguez-Casanova’s art as an art that lacks of imagination and creativity.

Camila Barranco

Frank Batista said...

Let me start by stating that my opinion should count for little due to the fact that my knowledge of art is also very little. That being said I am of the opinion that art should be something magestic, celebrated, beautiful and expressive, something that took time and effert and drives the human mind to its limits. What is going on now a days that we call art to a black line on a board, to a bunch of dots randomly set apart and a ceramic hand coming out of the wall? To me that should not be in the same category as Michelangelo's "Sistine Chapel", Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper" or "Mona Lisa", Gian Lorenzo Bernini's "Fontana del Tritone". I believe it is very sad that a man throws a few brushes around making something that a 3 year old can do in a bad day. The human mind can do wonders, our hands can carve into stone and use the brush as instruments to make something worth admiring, something that leaves you in awe at its sight, something that pushes the artist's limits and puts all its knowledge to the test. We can make something out of nothing, we can make a color mean so many things and give meaning to things that are otherwise meaningless. I can come up with a million things of what a black line on a white paper means, and so can the person next to me. Art shouldn't be whatever comes up to our head, it should have a spirit of its own and tell its own story without us having to make up what its trying to say. Even though we still imagine the Mona Lisa smiling, it is giving the viewer its own energy. Art should be more than a few lines, a raised floor,and a chair upside down it should be hard work, it should be an artist pouring its time and energy into something that will amaze, that will form life from a rock, say a story through clay and join the colors of love, sadness, pain, happiness, and suffering into a white and previously meaningless canvas through shapes and images that are real to us.

Frank Batista

Pythagorean2 said...

Before looking at detail to “A Mirroed- Wall”, I was thinking where the hell is the photographer taking that picture? Even though this room looks very empty and simple at sight, it presents an opportunity to look for something beyond the tangible and just enjoy a moment of symmetry behind those walls. Referring to the conceptual redundancy within, it simplifies the number of elements in a regular room like the ones we see every single day and brings the idea of two parallel worlds where nothing is what it seems. The simplicity on this arrangement could allow the freedom for a visitor to imagine its own design of furniture, accessories, or imagine a new color for the walls. I took the freedom of imagining a bar inside it. Another arrangement I would have love to see is two mirrors facing each other and transmitting a sense of infinitely many images in space.

-Dunie Navarro

Kelly Moras said...

Art is a very relative concept, as of late. With all the modern takes on Art, such as the examples presented in the article, the concept of art takes different meanings to each individual. For me art is anything that has the ability call my attention and move me inside. Art for me is literature, sculptures, paintings and even music, But I do not consider a chair turned upside down art. The best type of art is just the one that makes you smile and think how one person can capture so much beauty, whether it be with words, paint, or stone.

Juan said...

I think art has become very abstract, that is in order to compensate for how todays culture is so abstract as well, so stratefied and odd. I think that for me the carpet isn’t art, but I am sure we can find someone that will pay 50000 dollars for it. Perhaps not because he likes it, but it definitely called the mans attention. If tomorrow I grab a peace of paper and I sign it, it becomes art.

Juan R. Elias

Juan said...

I think art has become very abstract, that is in order to compensate for how todays culture is so abstract as well, so stratefied and odd. I think that for me the carpet isn’t art, but I am sure we can find someone that will pay 50000 dollars for it. Perhaps not because he likes it, but it definitely called the mans attention. If tomorrow I grab a peace of paper and I sign it, it becomes art.

juan R. Elias

Talhia Escobar said...

Art can be anything; it can range from someone picking there nose to Georgia O’keffes flowers. Art can also be an expression of what an artist is feeling, their beliefs, and actions. Although Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova is expressing himself through his “uneven floor” I don’t see anything artistic in the pink carpet. To me the carpet is ugly and it looks dirty.

Catherine Perez said...

There cannot exist an exact definition for the word “art”, because it is completely interpretative and dependent on personal perspectives. When we talk about art, the first thing that comes to mind is painting. When I was in elementary I had to take an art class in which we were taught how to draw and paint. Unfortunately, I am not that great of a painter so I would say to myself that I wasn’t an artist. With time I have learned that I had a misconception of the word “art” and being an “artist”. To me the essence of art is passion and perspective. Therefore, art can be anything that you feel passionate about and that you are able to personally express and interpret through any method (writing, singing, dancing…)
Catherine Perez

reiniery said...

Well, I think that the way that we we define what is art or not depends on the way each individual wants to see it.For instance The "Gioconda" painting by Leonardo Da Vinci found in the Louvre museum in france is just a simple popular painting that everyone interprets in different ways. I personally don`t see anything particularly interesting in the panting other than a good looking woman with a vague expression on her face that leaves the viewer to interpret her facial emotions in many ways, but agian, others might see it differently than i do.My point is that everyone has their own idea about art.In case of the article, i believe that evrything that sourrounds us is art, starting from the decorations and adornaments that we have and use in our homes.Things as sim ple as a carpet can have many different artistic features to it, such as the pink carpet which in this case its color makes this carpet a unique piece.I think that everyday simple things are part of art.An example of this is clothes we wear.Each one has a different style that represent our image.Art is kind of the same.It could represent how we feel or simply represent something that we like by its physycal appearance.

Jessica Plasencia said...

Art! Art should be anything and everything the author wants it to be. There should not be a limit to what art is and what is not. Art is supposed to express the author’s ideas in any way possible. It shouldn’t matter how senseless or pointless something may look. What should really matter is the fact that someone thought about it so it should be consider art.

Jessica Plasencia

Rosa said...

Art is nothing but the expression of a feeling. Thus making all of us artist, and our surroundings art.
We have sadly have just never learn to appreciated.


Ashley said...

I find it interesting how the audience's literal perspective can change their perception of art like this. While I find these installments very interesting, seeing them via photographs takes away much of their integrity. While being in the same environment as the art itself would allow me to be completely enveloped in it's various meanings, the photographs stop me from experiencing all it has to offer. It makes me wonder if photographs should even be taken of this exhibits- if I were the artist, I would be wary of this, concerned that people would not grasp my intent and shrug it off.
- Ashley McKevitt

miamibourbaki said...

Good point, Ashley. And one could say the same regarding paintings and sculptures, etc. We've learned to see stuff via photographs as the real thing, but then it's interrupted with the activity of the body. Thanks, keep visiting.

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