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Ars Natura: The Art of Reflection

  • Posted by karl burkart on June 3, 2010 in Art
  • A small but influential gallery in Mexico called MYTO, which helped launch Fabian Pena to MAD fame (amazing exhibit through October in New York), represents several other inspiring Latin American artists. One of my newfound favorites is Cuban Yunior Marino.

    Marino creates “photographic paintings” framing, cropping and assembling simple photographs of nature into epic mental landscapes that cause one to reflect on the very nature of, well, reflection. He manages somehow to evoke those childhood summer days when you actually had time to do nothing but lay on your back and track animal-shaped clouds, or zone out staring at the strange curling patterns of waves washing ashore at dawn.


    Marino has a broad body of work (including musical composition!) but here I’ll focus on Marino’s 2-part exploration of reflected natural forms. The first phase of this exploration happened back in the early 2000’s. Marino took a series of almost child-like photographs of natural landscapes reflected in still water. The images are then inverted and the objects in the water -- rocks, blades of grass, flowers -- are turned upside-down.

    The compositions have a zen-like quality, inviting a meditation on the vastness of nature and how it can best be understood by examining the smallest of its components. Marsh grass floats in the sky over a mysterious Whistler-like mountain landscape making the near seem very far away and distance so close you could almost touch it.

    Later in the decade, Marino dispenses with the figurative (horizontal-only) expression of aquatic “reflection” and explores its literal (vertical) expression by taking to the sky. He still uses the landscape (or in this case cloudscape) as raw material but now he reconstructs the landscape by using pure optical symmetry along two axes that often coincide with the position of the sun.

    The luminous baroque landscapes that result are genuinely breathtaking. It’s such a simple idea, but you can tell Marino must have shot hundreds of clouds to get the right combination of shapes and tones. The symmetry does something to your head. We’re not used to the sky appearing architectural, and in this surprising act of solidifying something as ephemeral and erratic as clouds, we are asked to entertain for a moment the notion that nature has intention in its infinitely varied forms.

    There’s also a temporal reflection that happens. The image reflected below the “horizon” is actually the same portion of sky shot at a later moment in time, foreshadowing (literally) the fact that the radiant castles and turrets floating above the horizon line will soon pass into darkness, in a blaze of reflected glory.

    —Karl Burkart





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