Miami might be a pressure cooker, but don’t try using one at an art fair.
That’s what Camilo Restrepo, an artist who lives and works in Medellín, learned from fire marshals at the Untitled fair shortly before its opening Monday night, after he’d tricked out a kitchen appliance, added hoses, and snaked them in and around four of his mixed-media drawings.
The works, which are in the booth of Restrepo’s Los Angeles gallery, Steve Turner Contemporary, and are also part of the fair’s special project series, are bizarre, disturbing, intricate data visualizations of the drug violence that has beset Colombia over the last decades, particularly during the artist’s childhood.
Familiar cartoon characters like Popeye and Homer Simpson, along with historical figures like Simón Bolivar, are there, a little worse for the wear, each representing the aliases of members of Narco cartels, crime organizations, and guerrilla and paramilitary groups. These are layered on top of cuttings about these groups that Restrepo clipped methodically from national daily newspapers and then drew on top of, creating densely interlaced landscapes that function at once as maps and calendars chronicling the interconnections in Colombian society. Convoluted and fragile, they’re held together with tape, saliva, and water-soluble wax pastel.
The idea was to use the hoses to blast away the top layer of pastel, revealing the intricate layers beneath. The artist shot a video (below) before he was told he couldn’t blow off any more steam.