David Castillo Gallery presents “Excess of Sleep Produces Monsters“, a solo exhibition of new works by Pepe Mar in painting, collage, and installation.
For Pepe Mar, sleep is a commitment to visionary reordering– an algorithmic cleavage– a capacity to acknowledge and engineer subaltern realities of form, space, and time. If affliction stalks the artist’s large-scale, sensually arresting phantasms, it is tethered to the status quo of waking life, the “sleep of reason” critiqued in Goya’s titular 1799 etching for producing the civilized nightmare of corruption in the name of progress.
The aptitude for transformation also belongs to speculative realism, a genre that inspires Mar’s portal into another dimension. To access the main gallery, the viewer must transcend a monumental collage on paper via a circle excised from its surface. Passing through feathered figments, masked countenances, and vegetative textures, the viewer enters a contract to de-familiarize themselves in order to confront the present and envision an alternative.
In exile and into dream, Pepe Mar expands his phantasmagorical vocabulary with appliqué painting, collage, and personal collectibles on large wood panels. Shards of paper topiary and supple sprigs of necklaces emerge from a coruscation of fierce blue circles shimmering like a color field in heat, distorting perspective and dimension. Flashes of beaks and eyeballs, claws and tendrils, animate the morass of synthetic familiars. In another panel, jointed wooden hands, gold chains, ear buds, ribbons, and reeds slip around each other like clockwork displayed against a subtle white gradation. The energy of these items, at once intensely personal and fluidly generic, seems autonomous and suspended, a screen grab of lustrous star death.
The artist extends his practice to a series of custom window frames fitted with colored plexi panels. The panes are installed to recreate the urban landscape of Ridgewood, Queens, NY, where Mar encountered candy wrappers, club flyers, clothing tags, and photographs that signaled both his everyday obsessions and his Mexican heritage in a new place of residency. It is also the place where many of the works in the exhibition were developed. The particular and the communal, present and past, also collide in a series of sublimation prints on fabric, which reclaim and manipulate images from the artist’s archive. Suspended from large metal grommets surrounding the intimate project space, the effect of fabric paintings is that of a life-sized, dioramic afterlife inhabited by the viewer and Paprika, a reoccurring horned beast in Mar’s alternate reality.
Invention through mutation is another tool of speculative realism, not least for practitioners of color, who often do not have the privilege of discounting primary injustices when conceptualizing surrogate worlds. “The idea of separating science fiction from realism, it’s like separating the present from the past and the future,” acclaimed Afro-Futurist author Nnedi Okoraforremarks. “Those aren’t separated, those are all combined.”
“Excess of Sleep Produces Monsters” is a manual for generating alterity. Experienced through doorways, windows, and fabrics, the exhibition assumes the characteristics of a dream house in the dual sense of playful desire and urgent reimagining. “Excess of Sleep Produces Monsters” also serves as a warning against the behemoths that already pass unseen in the “sleep of reason.” Notably, the figure in “The Somnambulist’s Garden” dreams with its eyes wide open beneath a lush shadowboxed canopy. True to the artist’s oeuvre, this material thought bubble is captivatingly whimsical. And true too, is its levity laced with weight.
Pepe Mar was born in Mexico and lives and works in Miami, Florida. He received his BFA from California College of the Arts (CCA), San Francisco. Mar attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine (2011) and his MFA from Florida International University in 2012. In 2013, the artist participated in the Bronx Museum International Residency Program. In 2014, Mar had his first institutional commission in the US at DiverseWorks, Houston. In 2015, Mar participated in the Banff Residency in Canada and was awarded an Andy Warhol Foundation Wavemaker grant for his project “Versus.” In 2016, the artist participated in the ISCP Residency in New York and was the recipient of both a Pollock-Krasner grant and a South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship. His work has been exhibited throughout the US and venues abroad and is included in major collections in the US, Europe, and Latin America including public collections such as the ICA Miami and Perez Art Museum. His work has appeared in the New York Times, ARTnews, Art in America, Art + Auction, the Artnewspaper, and Artnet.