Earlier this month, inside of an exhibit titled “The Visit,” a small group gathered around Uruguayan-Spanish artist Yamandú Canosa for an intimate pre-opening event at the Dalí museum in St. Petersburg.
In the center of the largest of three galleries making up the installation, Canosa gestured toward his feet at the shiny, black floor, proclaiming, “Here, we are standing in the water”.
Laughter ensued as Canosa motioned his hand around the gallery— his first solo exhibit in the United States.
The artist explained that the collection, which will be displayed until Oct. 30, recreates surrealist artist Salvador Dalí’s home and workplace at the Bay of Portlligat, Spain.
Each geographical feature of the environment is represented using different mediums—some are symbolized by paintings, others by photography, and some by designs painted directly onto the gallery walls.
The eclectic exhibit houses new and previous notable works by Canosa, including drawings, paintings, and photographs, as well as a small selection of Dalí’s works.
The installation elicits a dialogue between surrealism and contemporary art while exploring the environment of the Bay of Portlligat. A horizon line painted by Canosa’s hand runs through the entirety of the exhibit, and creates a unique way of engaging the viewer's eye, which Canosa said, “engages a dialogue between the viewer and the artworks.” He added that the horizon line helps each piece communicate with the other.
Canosa came to St. Petersburg three weeks before the pre-opening event from his home city of Barcelona to help install the expansive exhibit with the help of the Dalí museum. His gray-bearded face lit up when he talks about the works on the walls.
“My work is eclectic in the aesthetic,” Canosa explained to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay through a grin. “Sometimes you feel like you are visiting a group show.”
The engaging works are exhibited in a non-traditional way. Some are higher up on the walls, close to the ceiling, while others are lower than eye level.
He undertook this process in response to the surrealist practice of “automatism” which the art movement created in an effort to tap into the “Freudian unconscious.” The idea is that the artist’s hand makes the movements without the mind relying on a premeditated image.
“It makes movements that are unexpected,” Canosa told the group visiting the pre-opening.
The “Combat” room elaborates on Dalí’s painting of the same title, which featured two kneeling figures engaged in a type of confrontation. Their body parts appear to be disintegrating and dividing into smaller particles. The room comments on the futility of aggression. A group of soldiers stand on the horizon line, pointing guns at each other’s heads.
“One pulls the trigger and they all die,” Canosa wrote in a description of the room for the Dalí.
But to CL, Canosa expanded on the idea, saying that the violence ultimately was centered at the self.
“The man is the same man, he is shooting himself,” Canosa said.
Altogether, the exhibit took around three years to create, said Chief Curator Of Exhibitions And Collections William Jeffets.
“The original idea was not to say, ‘Let's make a whole new exhibition of brand new pieces’, but to make some new works and come up with a concept that’s specific for our immediate context,” Jeffets told CL. “We gave him a pretty open ended situation.”
Open-ended is exactly what an artist like Canosa wants. His style of art beckons the viewer to be active in the perception of the work.
“This is what the surrealists give, it’s a legacy,” Canosa told CL. “The freedom to reconfigure continuously what we are looking at.”
Canosa was born in 1954 and raised in Uruguay, where he became involved in the art scene while studying architecture in the capital city of Montevideo. It’s where he had his first solo exhibitions in the 1970s. In 1975, he moved to Barcelona, where he currently lives and works. His art is represented in a number of museums and foundations worldwide.
Canosa’s work was previously shown by The Dalí in the 2006 exhibition Salvador Dalí and a Century of Art from Spain: Picasso to Plensa.
From “The Visit '' to the varying works of Dalí, Joan Miro, and Marcel Duchamp, Canosa maintains that surrealism is a way of viewing the world, and that it transcends aesthetics.
“These surrealist artists belong to the same idea, that language has no shape,” Canosa said. “It is not an aesthetic invention. It works with the reality of the language and the reality of the gaze.”