September 8, 2019 | By Tony Wong Palms
Works by Kenny Jensen and Gabriel Ramos
Gallery 221 at HCC Dale Mabry
On Display through Sept 19
Find out more here
A gentleman in his 70s enrolled in same painting class as me at Miami-Dade Community College many years ago. He told us that he was legally blind, and that he wanted to paint his memories. It was fascinating watching him work, his face two, three inches from the canvas.
This memory floated in my head while listening to an artist talk moderated by Emiliano Settecasi of Gallery 221 on HCC’s Dale Mabry Campus, where Gabriel Ramos and Kenny Jensen are currently exhibiting.
The exhibition is a double one-person show organized by the gallery director, Amanda Jeanelle Poss. Ramos’ exhibition is titled Una Pausa en un Apuro. Jensen’s is titled Although I am not you, I am not other than you either.
Both spoke about how memories of their growing up inspired the works in the show, Ramos in Puerto Rico and Jensen on his family farm in northern Florida.
Whereas my 70-ish classmate’s paintings consisted of semi-recognizable shapes with fuzzy edges and muted tones, both Ramos and Jensen’s have well defined lines and outlines and shapes. But does that present a clearer picture? Painting memories is quite different than making art inspired by memories. But memories behave like all memories.
For this exhibition, Ramos, working with galvanized steel wire, ink on paper, and fabric, created a multitude of overlapping lines and shapes.
The wires are drawings in three dimensions, bent in situ, creating a merriment of dimensions intermingling with the shadows. Like kids looking at clouds identifying shapes, the wire/line moves the eyes along seemingly unending paths. One is amazed at the journey, sometimes simple, sometimes through several altered states. What looks like a certain object from one perspective becomes something else, or nothing at all, from another.
The fabric piece, Tendederos, is almost ephemeral. The loose-weave white material, laser cut into flat shapes leaving fine burnt lines along the edge, hangs in layers with parts drooping, casting shadows over each other and against the wall.
A sublime wall scape. It requires looking. It is pleasing seeing it, tilting the head this way and that.
What is Ramos tapping into? The transformation of his Puerto Rican childhood memories is deeper than sentimental lapses into a life that is marching towards an unknown future.
Jensen has evolved his youth exploring trees and grass into an ethos that sees the universe in a grain of sand.
He uses a wide range of materials, paints, plywood, old maps, printed text, aluplast and the very stuff of nature itself. The original specimens that nature makes, Jensen finds and puts in the gallery. He highlights the patterns, the shapes, the colors, then renders them in different scales and hues.
One natural phenomenon Jensen explores are the paths that insect larvae make as they chew through wood in the process of becoming whatever bug they will eventually morph into.
The paths they leave behind are remarkably consistent. Some paths look like many-legged alien spiders, particularly the scale that Jensen has reproduced using plywood and garish colors.
They can also read as maps, a fact that Jensen expanded on with a group of leaf miner larvae paths overlaid onto maps of the Smokey Mountain region.
Likewise, lichen growth find their way into a Jensen train of thought and emerge as different worlds, as one might see in a Petri dish or an aerial view of geologic features, all the while exposing some mystery about ourselves and our doings.
Even though it’s two separate shows and two very different artists, they sit well together. Like a moment in time when two strangers meet, two threads come together, a conversation happens, something is exchanged and intermingled, a pattern is created in a part of the human fabric. And then everything moves on.