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José Sierra: Feeling Natural

November 11, 2020 to February 30 2021


Our identity is, foremost, a story we tell ourselves. We filter and blend our history and environment, and then shape it like clay to build a concept of self. José Sierra drinks deeply from the well of identity to conjure the fourteen simultaneously organic and artificial vessels that comprise this, his first solo show in New York.

Rejecting the sprawl of Albuquerque, José nourishes himself in nature and channels his emotional response to it, embodying that stimulus in carnal, but alien, form. The mountains, the outcroppings, the vegetation of the arid South-West that reminds him of his native Venezuela, this is expressed, both literally and symbolically, in the forms and colors of his vessels. So too is the body represented, in appendages and openings, and in the vessels themselves. The synthesized result does not resemble its origins; it is necessarily artificial, and all the better for it. The remix brings us a charged and amplified interpretation of nature that manifests in a preternatural expression. Colors, compositions, and lines that are alien to the natural environment come out like a rainbow from a prism; exposed and reinterpreted.

While the forms and patterns that result are far from traditional, it is traditional aesthetic analysis that unlocks depth of the work. Much of José’s work contends with the dialogue between form and surface, and this dialogue grapples directly with the underlying tension between the two. Conceived holistically but, by the nature of the medium, executed as two separate elements, the dichotomy of surface and form is revealed by contrasting but symbiotic imagery that, in places, traces the contours of the form and appears integrated, as in nature. But the imagery continues, it elaborates into areas where detailed patterns exist independent of the form, revealing idiosyncratic expressiveness, the artificial. Similarly, José uses color in two distinct ways; with muted hues that represent nature, and pure, bold ones that represent emotion. Together, these dualities create a new identity.

Interpreting the environment, a feeling of nature, an expression of identity, this is at the heart of all cultural production. José Sierra work returns us to the source and offers us a fresh perspective.