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Pepe Mar
DiverseWorks, Houston, Texas
Recommendation by Donna Tennant

Pepe Mar, "The Cabinet of Dr. Mar," 2014, mixed media, 72 x 72 x 7". Courtesy the artist, David Castillo Gallery and DiverseWorks. Photo credit: Lynn Lane

Through October 25, 2014

Pepe Mar's exhibition title, "Parco dei Mostril," refers to an astonishing 16th-century sculpture garden in northern Italy populated by monstrous, larger-than-life figures and surreal structures scattered randomly throughout a small wood. Mar has created his first large-scale installation in the U.S. inspired by the park’s ability to surprise and stimulate visitors. The main space here is divided into four rooms, so that the viewer experiences each room as a voyage of discovery. The first room is occupied by a massive shadowbox crammed with expressive, sometimes frightening masks and flamboyant paper sculptures. A word that comes to mind is “fusion,” because Mar’s work reflects the influence of multiple cultures, including Pre-Columbian, Mexican, African, Caribbean, Aegean, Egyptian, and Greek, as well as modern artists such as Picasso and Miro. In the second room, a collection of small sculptures are arranged on shelves, each one intricately assembled from found objects and manipulated paper. The third room is an installation of 1990s Versace and Dolce & Gabbana dress shirts, neatly folded and displayed in embellished frames. The fourth and final room is a grotto hung with beaded necklaces and fetishes that featured, at the opening, a DJ in a grotto-like booth playing dance tracks selected by Mar.

Born in Mexico and currently based in Miami, Mar also sources imagery from current fashion, pop culture, science fiction, religion and club life. He scours everything from thrift stores to fashion magazines to art catalogues for materials, combining these elements in assemblages and collages that address personal identity, the influence of mass media, and America’s obsession with consumption. Prior to creating this installation, Mar spent time in the archives of the Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He also collaborated with students from the after-school program at Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA) to produce a series of live events that fuse Mexican folk traditions with contemporary urban life and the immigrant experience. Inspired by the melting pot that is America, Mar addresses the effects of multiculturalism in an installation where the beautiful and the monstrous happily coexist.


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