Thursday, August 8, 2013

An Explosion of Creativity & Color: Federico Uribe at the Hudson River Museum

Colombian artist, Federico Uribe, has mounted a show at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers which is a must-see, particularly if you are inspired by rich color and creative use of materials. But to see it, act quickly, as the show will close after this Sunday, August 11.

Uribe has transformed two major galleries of the museum as well as some connecting corridors into a playground for the animals of our world. Big, small, wild, domesticated, they interact among themselves and, more compellingly, with the museum visitors.

In each case, Uribe shows an uncanny ability to capture the nature and gesture of each animal, even as he has created it out of the most unlikely of materials. Among these materials are shovels, garden trowels, shoe lasts, shoe uppers, shoe insoles, even shoe laces, spent bullet casings, ping pong balls, books, pencils, old suitcases, fragments of jig-sawed wood, fragments of camouflaged trouser fabric, keys from old computer keyboards, wine bottle corks, insulated electrical wire, bicycle tires, and shattered tennis racquets in one instance.

This heterogeneity of materials may sound messy and rather undisciplined.  Yet, the opposite is the case, because Uribe limits his materials for any one object, and so, any animal, tree, or flower is homogeneous, formed from only one material.  It’s as if, faced with a specific material, Uribe distills its essence into a particular animal or object.

Some of his materials are donated, as in his athletic shoes, which came from Puma, or miscellaneous materials that people send him. The rest he buys from stores that are closing down, from dollar stores, or from recycling places.  He says that he has no grants.  He pays for his materials mainly by selling his paintings and other art. 


Amazingly enough, Uribe makes most of his objects himself.  In an e-mail, he told me that he has two assistants who help get things ready; they sharpen hundreds of pencils, cut wire, or drill holes to accommodate the bullet casings of certain works, for example. However, he does all his own assembly, and if you get to the show, try and count all the screws in any one piece; all were screwed in by the artist.  As he states, “I like the idea that people can read my effort in them, the time I have spent screwing every screw. They are the testimony of my work.

All the work in this show is representational and extremely life-like.  Yet, it transcends normal reality, which is, maybe, why he calls it Fantasy River.  In a video made by Mark McGuire, Uribe says that his work is “about rethinking reality. It’s not a political statement...I’m just trying to make beautiful sculptures and trying to make beautiful sculptures with things that I have and things that have meaning for me, and have meaning for other people, because objects have meaning for everybody.”

So, here I offer some sixty photographs of these objects in an attempt to capture some of the color and creativity of Federico Uribe’s installation.  Notice, even as the photographs focus on specific objects, that the theme of “river” unites them all; just as birds follow rivers and fish swim in them, birds (near the ceiling) and fish (on the first few feet of the walls) are ubiquitous. They are everywhere.



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, general view, gallery 1


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, general view, gallery 2


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, general view, gallery 2


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Visitors, gallery 2


Birds:

Uribe's birds appear both in clusters, flying near the ceiling, and individually, sometimes at large scale.  The latter, as most of his other animals, have specific names. As he states on his web page, "Most of my work is based on words.  I sometimes start with a name and look for my objects, sometimes the object makes me think of the word, and I exploit it to create a work."

However, given the nature of this massive installation, no individual work is titled. Therefore, when I identify a bird or animal in my photo captions, I am simply guessing.  I am not providing the specific title for that object, even though Uribe has titled his individual pieces when showing them in other contexts.

Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Birds, gallery 1


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Birds, gallery 1

Here are various clusters of birds made from the leather uppers of athletic shoes.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Birds, gallery 1

These birds, mounted on the wall above gallery 1, consist of two materials.  Their wings are those long, narrow garden trowels--the sort used to dig holes for seeds.  Their bodies are the handles of a type of cutter that normally would hold a razor blade.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, White Bird, gallery 1


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Large Bird, gallery 1


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Big Parrot, gallery 1


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Condor, gallery 1


These four birds are made with the leather and other elements from athletic shoes.  The Condor uses the complete uppers from sneakers. The Big Parrot is made from cut-up uppers from Puma shoes while its beak is taken from the soles.  The Large Bird uses a Puma shoe for its head, while its body consists of shoe laces.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Big Bird, gallery 1


This Big Bird is constructed out of a metal walking cane and metal crutches.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Bird Pecking, gallery 1


This is one of several birds on the ground in search of food that are made of colored pencils. It's utterly simple, yet perfectly captures the bird's action.  Uribe speaks of this, particular medium:  


“I like colored pencils for creating objects: they have a childish connotation in our memory and they are plastic and docile despite making straight lines.”


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Diving Bird, gallery 1

Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Toucan, gallery 1

These two birds are made out of books and book covers.  Uribe maintains his homogeneity of material in the Diving Bird by making it out of the hard covers of books and, for the body, the spines of books, since the tree--of which it is a part--is also made from books.  

The Toucan, likewise, has a body of a book spine with the pages still in place, but cut away to form its body contour; its beak and wings are the covers of books.

Uribe loves books, "especially classical literature and history. In the end, you establish a sentimental relationship with them. And to think that they also come from trees creates a romantic idea that I’m particularly fond of.”


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Bee, gallery 1

This may be a bird, but I prefer to see it as a bee, its body a shoe and its wings, shoe insoles.



Fish:


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Fish/Flower/Ram, corridor

Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Fish/Horse, corridor

Here are two photographs of those ubiquitous fishes, undulating up and down like some reassuring sine curve and linking all of the display spaces.  They all are made out of the handles of paint brushes.  Simply remove the brush and its ferrule, and, voilĂ , you have a fish.



Trees:


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Bamboo/Panda, gallery 1

Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Bamboo, gallery 1


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Palm Tree, gallery 1


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Plane Tree, gallery 1

These trees all consist of books.  The Plane Tree, directly above, uses thin, flat books as its foliage, while its branches are the pages of closed books, seen on end.  The Palm Tree is the one that also has that diving bird, and it is issuing from the mouth of a crouching man--reminding me a bit of droleries in late medieval manuscripts.  The bamboo stalks are made, simply and cleverly, by curling around book pages.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Tree Bark, gallery 1

This tree's bark is made from layers of ripped cardboard, stapled together.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Tree, gallery 1

Shoe insoles and shoe laces are all that this tree needs to convey its  nature.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Forest Wall, gallery 2

Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Forest Wall, gallery 2

Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Forest Wall, gallery 2

Here, Uribe creates an entire wall as a forest backdrop for the gallery inhabited by the wilder animals of the world.  The wall is made from cut and torn fabric, mainly in various camouflage prints.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Fox/Tree, gallery 1



On the Water:


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Boat, gallery 1

Although Uribe does not seem interested in capturing a specific place or context, nor in giving his work symbolic meaning, this rowboat made of suitcases may be the exception that proves the rule.     In a short video, the artist said the following in reference to this work: “People that came to America, they came with what they had; they wear their own luggage.”

And so, its hard not to think of immigrants coming to America with only an old suitcase, or of Haitian boat people, cobbling together some means to carry them to Florida, or those shovels in the place of oars as emblematic of the hard labor that immigrants brought with them to earn their keep.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Hippo, gallery 2

This Hippo head is made from old computer keyboard keys (as is the round stone on which the Water Buffalo balances--see below). I also love the blue and green shoelaces that stand in for the surface of a body of water.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Water Buffalo, gallery 2

The Water Buffalo is formed from insulated electrical wire.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Cheetah Surrounded, gallery 2


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Alligator, gallery 2


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Cayman, gallery 2

Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Crocodile, gallery 2





In the Wild:


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Gorilla, gallery 1


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Tiger, gallery 1


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Snake, corridor



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Rhino, gallery 2



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Elephant, gallery 2



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Monkey, gallery 2



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Leopard, gallery 2



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Leopard, gallery 2



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Lioness, gallery 2

According to Susan Hodara, the fur of this lioness consists of 45,000 bullet casings.  From what I could tell, the casings came from .22 caliber and 9 mm bullets.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Zebra Wall, gallery 2



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Zebras, gallery 2

This Zebra wall is a tour de force. Even though the detail above clearly reveals a dense cluster of nine or ten zebras, from a distance, the wall appears more like an abstract design in black and white.  Those black elements are cut-up pieces of bicycle tires.  Clever.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Zebra, gallery 2



The Local Scene:


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Flower, corridor




Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Hens Laying, corridor



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Cow/Chickens, corridor



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Cow's Udder, corridor

Perfect: a work glove becomes a cow's udder.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Horse, corridor



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Horse, corridor



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Horse, gallery 1

The first of these horses above--the one with a crutch for one leg--completely captures the quality of horseness in its gesture.  Yet, it is constructed out of woven wooden lath.  As in so much of Uribe's work, he transcends the limitations of the material to expose the essence of the object he depicts

This makes me think of the way Merlin, in The Once and Future King, educated the young Arthur on the essence of other animals by temporarily transforming him into those animals.  Interestingly, Uribe says something like this in that McGuire video: “I create the cat on my own feeling of being a cat, and in that sense I do have this sense of [being] equal with all animals.”



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Pig, gallery 1



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Deer/Corn, gallery 1



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Deer Head, gallery 2



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Sun/Corn/Crows, gallery 1



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Sun, gallery 1

The sun, nine feet in diameter, is composed of approximately 200 yellow Puma sneakers. Its rays are long, yellow laces.  The cornfield below it is made from green shovel handles.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Sheep, gallery 1

In regard to this sheep, Uribe informs us that “sometimes the object suggests an image, sometimes an image suggests an object. I saw this sheep, and it reminds me of ping pong balls, so I made a sheep out of ping pong balls.”


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Turtle, gallery 1



Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Turtle, gallery 1

A "pacifist" turtle built from shoe lasts and its more aggressive companion, above it, whose shell is a steel helmet and legs and head are made from .22 caliber bullet casings.


Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Squirrel, gallery 1

Apparently, this squirrel and its partner across the way were once a pair of Alexander McQueen's shoes; so writes Susan Hodara.

In reference to the many shoes transformed into animals, Uribe talks about "reversing the process. People kill animals to make shoes; I destroy shoes to make animals....it's about rethinking reality."

Federico Uribe, Fantasy River, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Dragonfly, corridor

I end with this piece, my favorite.  At first, I wasn't sure what Uribe used for the body of the dragonfly. The oars for its wings were obvious.  But if he remained true to his aesthetic, as I saw it, he would not have made that elegant, laminated, steam-bent, shellacked body; he would have to have found it, and it would have been made for some other purpose.  Then it came to me: it is the tiller of a sailboat. Perfect. Uribe's aesthetic remains intact--so, too, the homogeneity of materials, since all the wood served the purpose of boating.

Allow me to indulge in a bit of interpretation for just this, last, work.  Both the oars and the tiller are meant for steering and controlling a moving body.  In this way, they are ideal materials with which to construct a representation of a dragonfly.  Anyone who has watched a dragonfly move knows that it can hover, change directions, move up, down, sideways, seemingly all at the same time. Nothing else has such complete control of movement in space, so Uribe's choice of materials perfectly complements the insect. 

What a gorgeous piece. I would love to know what Federico Uribe named it.

Remember, this Fantasy River show closes after this Sunday, August 11. You have three days left to visit and see Federico Uribe's colorful and creative installation.


1 comment:

  1. Tyko, your text and photos aptly describe this very colorful and entertaining exhibit.

    ReplyDelete