Sergio Suárez delves into fire, water, stars and personal mythology

Sergio Suárez’s “Fuego Nuevo” is a personal, mythic interpretation of an Aztec ceremony of renewal by new fire that, in a sense, recalibrated the whole universe.

Suárez’s reach in the show at Whitespace (through Dec. 31) is appropriately cosmic, particularly in the 96 by 144 inch woodcut matrix “Procedures to Ease the Fall.” This immense composition features faceless figures dipping into flowing water in order to generate stars that correspond to no known constellation. But, Suárez observes, somewhere in the universe there are stars that would form that particular pattern.

Directly opposite is “Moment of Suspension,” a loose grid of ceramic and carved hydrocal disks that correspond to the missing faces of the figures shown in “Procedures.”

Credit: Mike Jensen

Credit: Mike Jensen

This method of establishing visual languages that are completed elsewhere in another work continues throughout the exhibition. The stairstep seen in the large woodcut recurs almost immediately as a small sculptural element in “2:07-2:16.” Stairs terminate in a found concrete block that serves as a base for another woodcut matrix, an example of Suárez’s maxim that “in this world, every stone can become an altar.”

The flames of the new fire are represented in an image that recurs in carved walnut in a wall piece, and in ceramic elsewhere in the exhibition. Fire, stone, vessel and the ripples formed by drops falling into still water are symbolized in other ceramic and hydrocal pieces. The most spectacular of these are the small works arranged on the stairstep-like shelving of “Principles of Division.”

Credit: Mike Jensen

Credit: Mike Jensen

The private-myth translation of the language of inherited mythology, however, is most profoundly encoded in the exhibition’s various woodcuts: Here the matrices are often presented, rather than the limited-edition prints. The titles alone convey the cosmo-mystical qualities of the imagery: “Immanence,” “Invocar la Noche (To Invoke the Night),” “The inner mystery as true as the mystery sleeping on the surface,” or “Orbita Celeste II.”

Suárez has profound things to say about the relationship between his chosen imagery and preserving heritage across cultures and artistic media

This companion show “Transmutations (the inbetweenness of things)” at Whitespace’s Whitespec space, which Suárez curated, features five artists and defies easy summation; Suarez intends, he says, to “explore the subtle and intangible ... through translation and reorganization.”

Aaron Artrip translates sound waves into linear visual images on exquisitely delicate cyanotypes. Kole Nichols’”expanded approach to art making in order to navigate diverse conceptual interests” (Nichols’ own summation) includes “journey,” a world-map-like engraving on slate, the natural dye and gloss medium on paper “Void,” and a grid of hand-excavated pieces of bituminous coal titled “Monument.”

Trevor King has lovingly translated his grandfather’s meticulous notebook sketches into full-scale stoneware sculptures. Malcolm Sutherland’s whimsical video animation “Umbra” presents hapless little creatures that fall with regularity into black holes created by the shadows of a larger creature.

Erika Shiba’s extraordinary drawings seem most akin to Suárez’s own practice. The etching “Red Orb Stain and graphite on BFK paper “{2022/2001}” feature symbolic stairsteps not unlike the ones that appear in Suárez’s work. The motif, of course, is used as a potent spiritual symbol in a wide variety of cultures. The in-between here, however, is multidimensional in ways that suggest that Shiba has her own deeply private mythology operating alongside the public ones.

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Sergio Suárez: “Fuego Nuevo” and “Transmutations (the inbetweenness of things)”

Through Dec. 31. Free. Whitespace, 814 Edgewood Ave. Atlanta. whitespace814.com.


Credit: ArtsATL

Credit: ArtsATL

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ArtsATL (www.artsatl.org), is a nonprofit organization that plays a critical role in educating and informing audiences about metro Atlanta’s arts and culture. Founded in 2009, ArtsATL’s goal is to help build a sustainable arts community contributing to the economic and cultural health of the city.

If you have any questions about this partnership or others, please contact Senior Manager of Partnerships Nicole Williams at nicole.williams@ajc.com.