When Michael Vasquez paints a canvas, he brings to dramatic life a vibrant, kinetic world outside our door; a street life filled with young men, mostly gang members, representing, giving off hand signals, decked out in hood gear. The way he uses color and brushstroke makes his figurative images, with their abstract-leaning swirls and slashes, leap from the frame. There is a reason this young artist is one of the most heralded in Miami these days; he has an eye and a skill that makes collections and museums across the nation and the Atlantic want him on their walls.
Now, Vasquez’s world comes to life in a much more 3-dimensional way, in a nice and successful departure from those paintings we are familiar with, in “Rites of Passage” at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery (his third solo outing at the gallery). Vasquez again recreates his street habitat, but in installation and photography and collage. Literally, he made a large-scale replica of the abandoned warehouse he and childhood friends and gang mates hung out in, made out of found wood and materials and including larger-than-life cut-outs of his fellow travelers. It’s a coming-of-age piece of work, a transitional time and place from a kid’s playground to a communal home, metaphorically and physically. Actually, to call this a 3-D installation is understating, and under-valuing, it. The proportions are right and wrong, the detail is amazing. This is a lost — and then found — world on many levels, for both those depicted and for those visiting.
As the gallery describes this journey: “Michael revisits, resizes and reassembles his images to fashion a large-scale, panoramic collage that narrates a gang’s convergence through friendships and the erection of forts within wrecked construction sites, which allude to broken homes.”
As an added extra attraction, in the back is a maquette, which in itself is a great piece of work and gives insight to the elaborate process involved in this rite of passage of a young and talented artist. Up for another two weeks at Snitzer, don’t miss this one.
“Rites of Passge” at Fredric Snitzer Gallery through March 17, 2247 N.W. First Place, Miami; www.snitzer.com.