Aramis Gutierrez’s After No Exit (2012). (photo: courtesy Spinello Projects)
“I was feeling like my work was using humor as a crutch,” Miami artist Aramis Gutierrez explains of the canvases on exhibit in his new show, “Endgame Aesthetics.” Although he remains one of our town’s most impressive figurative painters, with the ability to viscerally grab a viewer, the comically over-the-top shark attacks and South Florida sunburns of his previous pieces are gone—traded in for a more sober look at the world of classical dance. The human body is all-important in these finely honed portraits of ballet titans such as Rudolf Nureyev and AmedeoAmodio, with a sense of coiled kinetic energy practically rippling off his subjects’ limbs—a salutary effect of Gutierrez’s loosened brushstrokes.
Of course, Gutierrez is hardly the first portraitist to look to dancers for inspiration: Jamie Wyeth’s ’70s studies of Nureyev were redefining moments in both men’s careers. But Gutierrez is less enthralled by the physical magnetism of Nureyev than by his symbolism as a Soviet-era defector, slipping away from his KGB handlers, eventually landing in New York, where he became as celebrated underneath the disco ball of Studio 54 as onstage in a pair of tights. “I’m not interested in dance per se,” Gutierrez says. “I’m interested in the dramaturgy which surrounds dance, the political image which dancers convey with their body, with their presence.” For Gutierrez, that push against convention remains key—whether it’s within a conservatively minded dance company, an equally rigid society, or a theory-laden art milieu: “During the Cold War, there was no gray area; it was either us or them.” And while embracing figuration and technical skill may not be an artistic act quite on the order of fleeing Communism, it’s still a modern-day rebellion Gutierrez is proud to be a part of. “Endgame Aesthetics” opens September 14 at Spinello Projects, 2930 NW Seventh Ave., Miami, 786-271-4223