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Manuel Pardo

Manuel Pardo, "Pandillera Girl with Entity" (2003), Oil and pencil on linen. Courtesy of Van Brunt Gallery.

The Metamorphosis
Maya Stendhal Gallery

With the opening of Manuel Pardo’s Metaplasmic, the Van Brunt gallery inaugurated its second space, located on 819 Washington Street, near the Meatpacking district. Originally from Beacon, Carl van Brunt and Rose Burlingham decided to expand their operations to Manhattan, featuring an entirely different roster of contemporary artists. Tall ceilings and long walls undoubtedly give high visibility to Pardo’s serial imagery. As an immigrant from Cuba, nostalgia weaves itself through each piece, which utilizes elements of camp to capture the memory of the flashy, exotic Latina culture that was taken out of American visual discourse following the Cuban trade embargo in the early 1960s.

"Three Women" depicts just that, set upon a blue-green background. Each figure wears a different style of dress reminiscent of ’50s and ’60s fashions. Large hair, big dark lips and gaudy jewelry recalls the likes of either Jacqueline Kennedy or Liza Minnelli. But Pardo’s work extends beyond the surface of appearances. The purses held by each figure, for example, are actually intended to be urns alluding to the death of the artist’s mother in 1999. According to Gérard Goodrow, the blue and yellow contrasts within Pardo’s work alludes to wall paper known to him in childhood as well as the two-toned nature of plasma that is found within blood samples.

"Martian Girls 1" and "Martian Girls 2" are not as visually static as "Three Women." Figures and numbers swirl across each canvas while continuing the artist’s pursuit of iconic, anonymous female portraits. As the same woman reappears in each work, and the artist clearly utilizes the Warholian repetition of form and content as a method of creating meaning out of memory.

A twelve-piece panel titled "Pandillera Girl" was made specifically for this show, as was "Cuttings from Paradise." The first piece depicts four women standing together. While bourgeois in appearance, the flat nature of each figure reflects different stylistic aspects as seen in earlier art movements such as cubism. The artist’s decision to minimize visual detail in favor of allowing the flat surface to dominate his art reflects his own effort to keep the artistic content under tight control. But it is this limited degree of expression that leaves Pardo’s work quite decorative. The second piece consists of two canvases which represent a daisy cut in half. While one part is blue in background and the other white, this flower metaphorically represents the artist and his torn feelings between his homeland, Cuba, and his life here in the States.

Personal biography plays a prominent role within Pardo’s work, but he does not expect the viewer to find any meaning beyond the decorative surface of the appearances that his paintings present. While somewhat kitsch in appearance, the artist’s intent is to portray his deep admiration for women. This particular series is the last stage of one begun in 1996 titled "Mother & I." The artist’s memory of his mother, who went from being a professional doctor in Cuba to a cannery worker in America without vocal opposition, has served as Pardo’s source of artistic inspiration.


Jill Conner

Jill Connor teaches at Parson's new school.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 03-JAN 04

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