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Gambler's Paradise

Agatha's Studio, Buffalo, NY

October 24 - January 31st, 2021

Photos courtesy of Nando Alvarez-Perez.

Gambler’s Paradise takes the split form of a confessional booth to address themes of sin/serenity, escape/gambles, and heaven/hell. The show explores the fluidity and range which exists within dichotomies. By partitioning the space into opposing dioramas filled with the tropes and symbols of emoji culture, New Age-ism, and Las Vegas casino aesthetics, these symbols blend to create allegorical fantasy worlds open to the viewer’s interpretation. 

An upholstered prayer stool takes the form of a broken heart, as if one half of a childhood “best friends” locket has grown large and plush: one part a confession of hope and innocence, forever promising devotion; the other, a forlorn fragment detached from a whole. The separated parts hint at the reality of broken dreams and dashed hopes.

Above it on the wall a felt-flocked horse, borrowed from a chess set, faces into the scorching sun in a tense but dreamy Western sunset. Flames lick the horizon, while the horse is frozen in an anxious standoff before the next move. On the adjoining wall hangs a terrazzo flame. The flat shape represents the duality of fire: powerful and mesmerising, potentially destructive but essential for life. Meanwhile, transferred into symbolic form, the flame-as-sculpture is castrated, lacking this essence of light and warmth. Similarly, it symbolises the duality of fire in language, where it finds its way into idioms for praise (“on fire”) and cursing (“burn in hell”). We play with language, as with fire, as a way to get some thrills.

Framed against the emptiness of the blue clouded sky, a lone carnation hovers as if in a funeral niche or against the painted ceilings of the Venetian hotel and casino. Hand cut by the artist on a bandsaw and airbrushed, the construction excerpts the language of manufacturing and mass culture. The symbol of the carnation—often a marker of love, protection, and healing—here relates to how we mourn. Borrowing its imagery from Israel’s Yom HaZikaron memorial sticker, it asks how we perceive and process loss in relation to clichés, ceremony, and national rites. Bifurcated, one side blossoms while the other is yet to bloom. In the background, the plywood’s grain shows through, mimicking the movement of the clouds. The flatness of the image speaks of the oversimplification of complex and real emotions of grief and loss.

A seven-sided diamond dominates the space, overwhelming in its size and vivid colors. Each facet is painted a different shade of blue in a three-dimensional rendition of storefront graphics commonly found outside jewelry stores and in engagement ring advertisements. The coloring of the sides merges with shadows on the work, tricking the eye to misunderstand the sculpture’s shape and angles. In representing the form of a diamond, the sculpture offers an unwieldy version of the original, now on a grand scale, like a prop from a Las Vegas love chapel. It parodies the advertising pretenses surrounding engagement and marriage ceremonies in an exaggeration of picture-perfect life.

In religious rites and Western tradition, there exist clear dichotomies; however, in this space the lines are allowed to blur and things slip from one side into the other. The spaces of the confessional are for verbal redemption, but here transition into a visual stage of fantasies, fears, and dreams. 

Agatha's closing Artists Talk 

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