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Formulating a Plot at PAMM

Formulating a Plot at PAMM

Adler Guerrier’s exhibition Formulating a Plot, at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), curated by Diana Nawi, combines pieces in various media that seem to be disconnected at first, but are organized in such a way that a coherent theme or story emerges when examining the artworks more closely. During a curator’s tour with Nawi, it was explained that there was a central theme that unites all of the artwork. The concept of the Baudelarian flâneur  was demonstrated through each of Guerrier’s  contemporary mediums and Nawi’s curatorial techniques, in a manner that steers away from the “dandy or aesthete.”  Of Haitian descent and living in Miami, Guerrier’s artworks “. . . connect to a broader historical narrative through the distinct character that the works present about Miami”, says [former] PAMM director Thom Collins.

Adler Guerrier: Untitled (Flâneur), 2001 [courtesy the artist; David Castillo Gallery, Miami]

Guerrier’s photographs, screen prints, and mixed media pieces use a layering and collage technique that serves as a common visual thread throughout the exhibition. At first there are photographs of Guerrier in several different cities (including his current home in Miami) with only his silhouette appearing in the landscape. These photos express how “a body navigates through a city” and references Baudelaire through the viewpoint of the “casual observer” in each landscape. In Untitled (Flaneur), 2001, Guerrier’s silhouette is visible on the streets of Miami at dusk.  The camera is positioned low to the ground pointing upward, and though the image is dominated by a clear sky and a parked car in the foreground, the viewer is drawn to the lone silhouette of the artist. He includes other photos that depict him in front of famous landmarks such as the Chrysler Building in New York, but Guerrier is always in silhouette.

Adler Guerrier: Untitled (BLCK-We wear the mask), 2007–08, installation view [courtesy Pérez Art Museum Miami; photo by Miami Fine Art]

Because this exhibition presents 15 years of Guerrier’s work, it was important for Nawi to describe the chronology of the work in order to create a narrative that would add to the viewers’ experience of the space and their movement through it. When first walking into the exhibition there is a bright pink wall of the “frutas mixtas” color that corresponds to the diversity and liveliness of Miami. The artwork in the space made for what was referred to as a “constellation of meaning that is constantly layering and looping in and out.”  From a purely artistic viewpoint, the importance of placement and sequencing of work was also evident. One particular wall of prints was arranged in such a way that the colors seemed to build from a monotone dynamic into a brighter scheme that tied into the pink wall on which the work was hung.

It was important to view this exhibition from a macro level, as each new tableau builds upon the previous one. The only piece that seemed out of place from a purely visual perspective (not a philosophical perspective) was the piece constructed from political signs, old political propaganda with stenciled statements, that was fashioned into multi-layered sculptures.  Once the flâneur concept is understood, the finding and manipulation of these pieces into an exhibition becomes justified. The use of poetics and fictional narratives about Miami, such as Guerrier’s piece, Untitled (BLCK-We wear the mask) 2007–08, demonstrate how a dialogue between history and fiction can be made visual. For example, Guerrier creates a fake protest group that is “based in Little Haiti” to discuss issues of race.

Adler Guerrier: Formulating a Plot, installation view [courtesy Pérez Art Museum Miami; photo by Miami Fine Art]

The design of an architectural, wooden structure that “layered” and essentially divided the exhibition space, was also echoed in several of the screen-prints/photographs. This further connected Guerrier’s perspectives as flâneur (from a more architectural perspective) to the curatorial aspects of the exhibition. Being able to look through the holes in the structure and look at other pieces of art through them added to the layering effect.

While the feeling of the exhibition as a whole may seem disconnected in subject matter, upon close examination and appreciation of each individual part one can see many relations and specific arrangements that complement one another. The artworks show a collection of the results found as a contemporary flâneur, a manipulator of observances in various cities. The exhibition as a whole visually explains how the streets, and thus public life itself, “communicate through signs” to find a larger purpose. This purpose comes to being through what Amanda Sanfilipino of the Miami Rail describes as “a polite call to action,” where the artworks transform reality into insightful, fictional scenarios that examine the struggles of people that are commonly disregarded. This layering of form, object, and overall composition allows each observer to imagine stories that resonate with their own experiences.