Being a professional artist is by no means an easy career. Countless hours in the studio combined with the consistent pounding of the pavement to connect with the right curators, gallerists, critics, and more, is a daunting commitment. It’s an uphill battle that doesn’t always guarantee a solid opportunity for an exhibition, not to mention the ongoing politics of the gallery world make it even harder for an emerging artist without pre-existing institutional ties to have a chance. Like any profession, when opportunities and prospects are slim, artists have to make their own way and sometimes the options leave them with tied hands.
In the past, collaborating with corporate brands as a means of sustainability was shunned as a sell-out move. Too often brands would employ artists as marketing ploys to co-sign a new product rather than organically engaging their talent. Art at Viacom, a new quarterly rotating art exhibition series, may be one of New York’s art world’s true hidden gems. Away from the hub of galleries in Chelsea and the Lower and Upper East Sides, taking residence in the company’s headquarters in Times Square, the program has presented some of the most intricate and unexpected installations that a typical gallery goer would not ordinarily find and in turn a safe haven for emerging artists. Since early 2015, when the program initiated, Art at Viacom has helped produce and present artistic endeavors of artists who, by New York standards, are below the radar and has provided a platform and resources to realize their dream project. Three to four different artists participate in the program each year, working alongside Viacom’s in-house creative team for production and support, who often take on the role as their studio assistants (so to speak) in the process.
Each installation has been more stunning and innovative than the next and has consistently been the largest project of the participating artist’s career. On March 16th, Art at Viacom premiered their latest installment, new site-specific work by the Mexican muralist Marela Zacarias. Zacarias, influenced by both Diego Riviera and ancient Mayan culture, has always been drawn to the social and communal character of murals. In this exhibition, titled Echoing Forms, Zacarias channels the creative nature of Viacom, who like a large mural, has a mission to communicate positive messages to the world around it.
The installation consists of several intricately painted mesh based sculptures. The main lobby has both wall and floor pieces and the building’s entrance is adorned with hanging works, which float above the windows facing the heart of Times Square. Zacarias’ work blurs the lines between painting and sculpture as the strongly painted designs do not merely cover the structural shapes but have a life of their own. The shapes, reminiscent of a child’s folded origami paper, are just as strong, and not only amplify the painted designs, but lead the viewer’s eye through the work’s beautiful flowing arcs.
By far my favorite work of the show is The Red Wheel Barrow, a painted mesh sculpture built off of a tricycle. Meant to recall a sense of innocence and childhood, the sculpture envelops the bike, almost taking the place of the child, or rather, looking like the child’s jacket, still shaped with the imprint of the child who was recently wearing it. It’s both lively and eerie, as the image stays with you long after visiting the space.
Zacarias begins her artistic process by shaping and reshaping mesh, until she finds a shape and flow that interests her. She then covers this mesh with thin delicate layers of plaster, and slowly builds the surface up until it becomes a hard strong object. This is a very private process for Zacarias and she takes this time to feel and engage with both the objects she creates as well as herself- allowing her inner emotions and instincts to run free. When Zacarias embarks upon a site-specific work as she did at Viacom, she is deeply concerned with how the work engages with the space around it, on both an architectural and historical level. The shapes of the building are equally as important as the history of the building and what the building is used for. She also keeps in mind who inhabits the space and who will be engaging with her works on a daily basis.
It’s clear that Viacom’s energetic and creative nature exuberates in Zacarias’ work, as the shapes and colors contain a playful and positive message. All of the works are refreshingly creative, uplifting, and unique. The play between historical influence and the spontaneity of the moment, artist and viewer, and painting and sculpture are a few of the many complex dynamics that Zacarias offers us in this show.
Art at Viacom’s official video interview Here.
Echoing Forms will run until May 29th, 2017. The work can be seen in the entrance and the lobby of Viacom, located at 1515 Broadway at 44th Street.