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February 22 - March 29, 2003 at Couturier Gallery, West Hollywood

by Andy Brumer

Cuban-born photographer Gory (Rogelio Lopez Marin), who now lives in Miami, has created a collection of surrealistically tinged, photomontage-based images of New York City that work both as elegies mourning the September 11th attack, and timeless odes celebrating that city’s joyous energy, indomitable spirit and unparalleled visual complexity. The pictures display the artist’s characteristic hand-toned treatment and multi-layered fields that point to his origins as a painter. They also link themselves with Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca’s surrealist masterpiece Poet In New York (posthumously published in New York in 1940), a book that has become a modernist emblem of urban industrialized alienation heightened by Lorca’s life in exile.

In somewhat surprising contrast, Gory’s wistfully poetic treatment of Manhattan stands out as an at once tender and innocent intercourse between the city’s architectural “canvas” and the artist’s host of playful images. In fact, the overall treatment of the city reminds one more of Atget’s Paris in it’s elegant quietness than Lorca’s sea of angst; though Gory’s romantic vision incorporates a jazzy if not hip-hop kind of energy absent in Atget’s work. For example, in a piece called Knives, a floating array of cutlery set against an anonymously dull apartment building fuses the ideas of street violence, domesticity and the art of cooking into brilliant homeostasis.

Throughout the series, dreamlike images, many suggestive of life in Latin America, spring to the picture’s foreground as if “painted” over the city’s skyscrapers, which recede to welcome and support them like stretched canvases.

In Dresses this exact feeling of depth--emotional and compositional--erupts as three specter-like flowing dresses align themselves across the paper. A row of townhouses recedes back, while the arching branches of a tree flowers vertically out of one of the dress’s bodiless “torsos”. In Horse a white field horse chained to a building’s wall nevertheless appears to be running freely, recalling Salvador Dali’s statement that “if one cannot understand the image of a horse galloping on a tomato, one cannot understand surrealism.”

Other pictures stand out for their sheer compositional brilliance. Doors places the viewer in a junkyard, where a staggered horizontal row of car doors creates a cubist conversation of plane geometry and simultaneous perspective. A rider-less antique bicycle appears to fly through an alleyway in Bike. Again, the duet of the building’s brick wall and stark rectangular window, visible through the bike’s airy wheels and handlebars, sound a Blakean note of innocence and experience.

“Dresses,” 2002,
color photograph.

“Knives,” 2002,
color photograph.

“Doors,” 2002,
color photograph.

“Horse,” 2002,
color photograph.

“Bike,” 2002,
color photograph.

A catalog accompanies the show, whose superb essay by Tim Wride both provides welcome background information about Gory, and nails the essence of his art: “. . . .Gory has mastered the hard-won ability to recognize and transmit the visual anomalies and puns that punctuate the urban environment. His is an artistry of degrees--of tiny increments that challenge the understandable and reaffirm the unknowable.”