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ISLAA Artist Seminar Initiative

Curated by Kaira M. Cabañas and Jesús Fuenmayor

October 26, 2023 - January 26, 2024



ISLAA Artist Seminar Initiative

Vital and Veiled: Valerie Brathwaite and José Gabriel Fernández highlights segments of each artist’s most emblematic series: In the case of Brathwaite, her stones, flowers, and "soft body” sculptures form an aesthetic constellation, foregrounding how she considers sensuality in nature (or nature’s sensuality) since the late 1960s. Her sculptures are made of different materials, including bronze, clay, ceramic, plaster, cement, and fabric, which results in a unique hybridization of collage, painting, and sculpture. Brathwaite’s work is imbued with a vitalism in her choice of forms and materials, provocatively contributing to contemporary discussions around the new materialisms from her perspective as a Black woman from the Caribbean. In the case of Fernández, the exhibition focuses on his explorations of representations of masculinity and veiled homoerotism in tauromaquia (bullfighting), which he initiated in the 1990’s. These works include his “studies” of the capote (bullfighter’s cape) as a generative shape for his ultra-modern, abstract sculptures. Throughout his work Fernández marries a keen aesthetic sophistication with veiled references to sexuality, contributing to expanded narratives of queer art.

Brathwaite and Fernández each developed their own path for exploring sensuality through sculptural experimentation and print media. Furthermore, it is important to note that they each began to question how to relate artistic practice with a specific identity long before identity politics emerged in contemporary (US-based) discussions around art and representation. Their decades-long dedication to this type of aesthetic investigation provides another foundation for in-depth conversations related to contemporary art; art from Latin America and the Caribbean; and current curatorial discourses. Each artist has also experienced various migrations: Brathwaite moved from Port of Spain, Paris, London, to Caracas, and Fernández moved from Caracas, Florence, London, to New York.

Vital and Veiled is sponsored by the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) and the School of Art + Art History (SA+AH), University of Florida, Gainesville. Public programs are supported by the Harn Eminent Scholar Chair in Art History (HESCAH), the Division of Cultural Affairs of the State of Florida, SA+AH, and the College of the Arts at the University of Florida.

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