Romina Gonzalez: The return
Visitor Center (Newburgh)
From March 12 to April 16, 2022
By JONATHAN GOODMANApril 2022
Romina Gonzalez, originally from Peru, now lives in upstate Newburgh. His very good show, “The Return”, is currently on display at the Visitor Center, whose gallery occupies the first floor of a large brick house in the city. The show is part installation, part precisely placed grouping of individual sculptures in glass, sulfur and copper, and unusual materials such as hand sanitizer. Gonzalez uses these charged substances to create a post-minimal, post-Arte Povera vocabulary, the results of which are subtly placed within the two thousand square foot space. Considered as a single entity, the collection of individual works of art brings us to a coherent statement, determined to bind the individual works into a whole. At the same time, the unique sculptures are wonderfully constructed, with glass being the major element. Glass, often seen as a craft material, here becomes a vehicle of three-dimensional clarity and transparent form. Gonzalez, who regularly works with glass, has found a way to make a statement that is fully in line with contemporary interest in a wide range of mediums.
The visitor center space is large enough to display Gonzalez’s unique works to their advantage. There’s ample room for the works to stand on their own, even as they combine to make a surprisingly relational statement. Copper rods extend from the floor or stand unsupported in the middle of the room; other sculptures simply rest on the ground or hang on the wall. Thus, the space is both an activation for the entire gallery and a stage for individual works of art. In the conversation, Gonzalez talks about mythical impulses, including tarot and Egyptian art, that stem from her, and our sense of disappointment and loss regarding the ecology of social and natural resources. As a result, the language of his art becomes highly evocative in its use of accessible, often industrial or synthetic materials. His gaze may be abstract, but he is resolutely attached to a language of direct statement. In this sense, Gonzalez is close to minimalism in her approach, but she fuses this particular style with a flair for environmental expression. And the artist never loses sight of the importance of the individual object in its own right. The sculptures are striking examples of glass or metal, sometimes both. In the blue glass work titled A mound, corner or cave (2019), Gonzalez fashioned a bunch of small, rounded, partially translucent shapes that also reflect light. Vaguely (perhaps not so vaguely) scatological, the mound draws us in with its beautiful color and the extravagance of its overall shape. This small but compelling work reminds us that Gonzalez’s use of glass, a material often associated with elegance and refinement, can be made into a raw statement, a statement of the coarse physique.
Made primarily with sulfur and copper, Bridge of Incidents (2022), stands without visible support on the ground, with two copper rods leading upwards to a bridge of yellow sulfur, the rounded shape of which rises upwards. Sulfur has been described as being able to speed up your solar plexus chakra – a complete association with the visionary eclecticism of Gonzalez. Jumping from material to material and culture to culture, Gonzalez could be criticized for going too far and too far in her associations. Yet the individual work is successful, as much by the aura of its materials as by its symbolic form. Lights (2022), a small triangular glass pouch enclosing a viscous body of light purple hand sanitizer, rests on a small flat copper base. Who would have thought that the piece could have such luminous properties using gel, such a commercial material? Yet the design attracts us, while the shape of the glass reminds us that light passes through transparent materials with unusual grace. Gonzalez, still a young artist, has already developed an original language. “The Return” then suggests her desire to return to the fundamental properties of the substances she uses, evocative of both industry and mysticism. It’s an effective combination. WM