In a summer extravaganza, the Hudson River Museum presents a 3-dimensional land and riverscape inspired by the dreams of Columbian artist Federico Uribe. Fantasy River (June 1 – August 4) is his first New York-area solo exhibition in a roster of national and international shows. Largest yet for Uribe, this work culminates a seven-year creative journey in which Uribe strives to show us objects in new ways: “A screw is a screw and a shoe is a shoe, until it becomes something else.”
Uribe’s site-specific 5,000-square-foot Fantasy River installation fills the Museum’s galleries with spectacular theatrical experience that encompasses the flowing “water” of a winding river, riverbanks planted with luscious vegetation, bright birds in continual flight, and everywhere dazzling sunshine.
Nature as Theater
For Fantasy River Uribe concocts a fantasy world from materials that exist in the real one. Grist for his art ─ shoelaces, the color pencil as both tool and sculpture, baby bottles, gloves, coins, and, always, screws. Uribe creates his animals, some whimsical, some presenting the real qualities of hunter or prey, from natural and manmade materials.
Connecting objects fresh ways, he reflects on Nature’s pivotal presence and in the process gives back to Nature what was taken from her ─ trees made out of books, animals made out of leather shoes.
Crossing a “River”
In Fantasy River as with all rivers, a boat is nearby. Uribe makes his vessel from scores of suitcases that defy gravity to hang together. The repurposed suitcases suggest the thousands of immigrants who, crossing water on the journey to a new life in the United States, came with or without suitcases, but most usually left all behind. Uribe, himself an immigrant, moved to Miami from Columbia. The Florida climate is a steadying influence, reminding him of home, “The weather is similar since it doesn’t change much. Living in Miami, I feel less a stranger.”
Reveling in Atmosphere
Fantasy River is an immersive atmosphere that includes music and theatrical lighting to stimulate the senses of the viewer. Fantasy River is similar to the immersive 1970s sculpto-pictoramas of Pop artist Red Grooms, through which viewers walk, such as The Bookstore, one of Grooms’ best known sculpto-pictoramas and a site-specific installation on long-term view at the Hudson River Museum. Just as The Bookstore, Uribe’s Fantasy River contains a hightened visual detail and color and suggests a frenzy of pattern and decoration that refutes Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe’s modernist edict that “Less is More.” In the works of Uribe and Grooms “More is definitively More.”
Craft Grounded in Concept
Uribe turns often to stories and when he can’t read as he works, he listens to audio books. “I listen to a lot of literature, some history, and books on anthropology, Buddhism, and the history of religions, too. Literature is important to me and my work. My installation at the Hudson River Museum is full of stories and the love and curiosity I see among animals.”
Hand craft is essential to Uribe, who re-embraces Latin America’s tradition of exquisitely crafted handmade objects. Uribe’s intense labor to create his flora and fauna is plainly visible, “I like the idea of leaving the screws visible as a testimony of the process and how much work was put into it. I like also the masculine quality of building materials.”
Working Across Genre and Country Lines
Uribe’s art is an unusual hybrid that uses the language of pop art to transform the objects of daily life, while it acknowledges the traditions of classical art. He studied art in Bogota at the University of Los Andes and later in New York with conceptual artist Luis Camnitzer. As part of his global vision, Uribe’s career includes years of work in Cuba, Mexico, Russia, England, and Miami. Currently he is participating in the First Biennial for the South in Panama, an international project to stimulate cultural development in Latin America.
The exhibition is organized by the Hudson River Museum and curated by
Bartholomew F. Bland, the Museum’s Director of Curatorial Affairs.