The three-person exhibition, For a Day or a Lifetime, at QUAID Gallery in Tampa’s Seminole Heights features drawings by Neil Bender, photographs by Nabil Harb, and paintings by Roberto Marquez. Each artwork is swallowed but also highlighted by the swirling decadence of the wall painting in the gallery’s small quarters. The title of the show evokes drama with a sense of nostalgia, which is not lost in the showing of these works and in their close proximity to one another. The multimedia presentation of the artists’ works maintains a sense of interest throughout the gallery: Stark black-and-white contrasts of Harb’s monochrome photographs emphasize the textures of Marquez’s paintings, as those dramatize the pattern and collage in the drawings of Bender that so effortlessly wander about the pages. Though all the works are aesthetically pleasing as a whole, each holds an amount of dignity that allows it to not get lost among wandering eyes and thoughts throughout the gallery.
An echo of Martin Kippenberger’s hotel drawings vibrates in the work of Neil Bender, but along with that comes his own twist. In the 1990s, Kippenberger used hotel stationery to transform a ready-made medium into an outlet for his compulsive mind to unleash drawings throughout the making of his paintings. The erratic sort of style Kippenberger used created a sense of unfinished desires as he traveled during his career. In this exhibition, Bender is drawing from and on stationery of The Jane Hotel, NYC. As your eyes ramble over the pattern of the drawings, they evoke an aimless yet purposeful sense of wonder. The Jane mirrored this uncertain path throughout its architectural lifetime, from being a cheap stay for sailors to a drug-ridden crashpad for the impoverished, and from a refuge for Titanic survivors to a must-stop bar and ballroom for European tourists.
The small space of QUAID inadvertently embellishes the club-life scene in Nabil Harb’s photographs. The striking black-and-white photos exude the intimate celebration of nightlife at the Orlando nightclub Pulse, where the artist spent time both photographing and just enjoying. Focusing on the photos, you can imagine the sights, sounds, and sweat in a nostalgic breath of the atmosphere. Harb achieves amazing contrasts throughout the images: the dimension of drag makeup to contour faces, delicate fishnet tights against porcelain skin, and even the flashing lights over dancing bodies. While the images are nothing short of lively and witty within the sense of drag chic, they cannot help but carry with them the tragic undertone of the happenings at Pulse. It is perhaps this dynamic of both pain and distraction that gives these photographs their alluring quality. Together, they combine remembrance, nostalgia, and continuity — that hopefully comes with change of conservative thinking in Florida.
Roberto Marquez’s paintings quickly become a feast for the eyes as you walk through For a Day or a Lifetime. The thick application of paint from pinks, to reds, to colored nail polish and bright white socks, the tenacity of Marquez’s works are boggling to the mind, as you want to create meaning after meaning of the bendy figures and a smoking… butt? That is the beauty of what each painting offers: opportunity for multiple readings and viewpoints. The humor of the works is rooted in the everyday, with a sprinkling of cultural misunderstandings and stereotypical thoughts of Puerto Rico. Following the recent hurricane down there, the artworks also pull from the lack of support and the president’s public ignorance when the people were in need of help.
Bender created the wall painting that swirls lucidly and euphorically throughout the space, quietly framing and accenting the works while creating a space for conversation and possibility. The Keith Haring vibe stretches throughout the gallery, creating a natural movement through the space while simultaneously giving a rather unattractive building an enhanced sense of purpose.
Leaving the show, a spectator is to think of how each artist is somehow exhibiting this theme — For a Day or a Lifetime. For Bender, it may be the excessive drama of the slogan that allows each drawing to take its individual turn, wandering throughout life. For Harb, it is perhaps the long-term effects of the incident at Pulse, showing what a cultural/political impact just one day can have on people in a place of acceptance. For Marquez, think about how the daily ignorance of people regarding other groups is something that they must carry throughout their lifetime.
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