Artworks that have the power to transform

Arts / Article

“Growth Spurt” from Felice Grodin.

In the drawings on Mylar that Felice Grodin creates, there is a lot of action. They can at first look like expanding, growing organisms. But on closer observation, these fairly large pieces, a number of which are up at the Diana Lowenstein Fine Art gallery, the movement suggests more a metropolis in motion – the traffic, the architecture, the people, the smog all colliding with each other.

Santiago Villanueva "Soft & Touch Therapy"

Santiago Villanueva, “Soft & Touch Therapy.”

And indeed, the Italian-born Grodin was trained as an architect, and has lived in some of the most dynamic – and literally transforming – cities in the world. She’s been in earthquake prone San Francisco, a flooded New Orleans, a sinking Venice, a 9/11-shocked New York, and now here in hurricane alley. Up close these works look like grids that are straining, or high-rises that are swaying, everything moving and trying to stay on its feet.

But maybe the most beautiful pieces in “nolo contendere” are her wooden sculptures. Also suggestive of skyscrapers or spires, the blond, bass wood sticks that comprise the sculptures are almost gentle choices for materials, softening the urban harsh lines. In one terrific work called “growth spurt,” the wooden tower melts onto the floor, spreading out from its base.

In the second room, some more great sculpture: large-scale eggs and drooping tubes from Santiago Villanueva, a native of Madrid. “Soft & Touch Therapy” is one of the most aptly named shows out there. These pieces made from cement, polystyrene, fiberglass and lacquer have creases and indents on their shiny surfaces that are begging to be caressed. The two tube sculptures, one all red, one all black, drip from their hooks on the walls in a sensuous, lava-lamp-like progression. As in Grodin’s work, these sculptures are undergoing some kind of transformation, morphing from one mass to another.

The standout is the white “egg” suspended from the ceiling next to the back wall. It has a tail that is dripping from its underside, and the whole piece casts an amazing shadow against the wall behind it and the floor below. It’s simple and powerful in its form.

“nolo contendere” from Felice Grodin and “Soft & Touch Therapy” from Santiago Villanueva run through March 31st at the Diana Lowenstein Gallery, 2043 N. Miami Ave., Miami;