Jan 8, 2024
At Oolite Arts, Alberto Checa’s first solo exhibition offers a story of immigration and a critique of the American labor system
(Jan. 8, 2023) Miami Beach – Artist Alberto Checa moved from Cuba to Miami with his mother in 2008, where they lived for years in efficiency apartments as his mother performed back-breaking factory work to make ends meet. On Feb. 7, Checa will open his first solo exhibition at Oolite Arts rooted in his experience as a Cuban immigrant living in Miami. Inspired by a desire to empathize with his mother’s repetitive and seemingly endless work, “Amidst Twin Suns” is both a labor of love and an exploration of labor, where Checa critiques the American economic system and working class Latinos’ relationship to it through art and performance.
Curated by Jean Chung, an independent writer, curator and a long-time colleague of Checa, “Amidst Twin Suns” presents an archive of the artist’s drawings, installations and ongoing performances. Inspired by his childhood in Cuba and guided by the movement of Arte Povera, Checa draws from a tradition of improvising with everyday objects. Checa’s sculptures use utilitarian materials – PVC pipes, water vacuums and plaster – to mimic the labor conditions at various job sites he has worked around Miami. The pieces and performances use an abstract aesthetic in order to avoid exploiting and re-traumatizing workers whose experiences he draws from.
“My work allows me to address the everyday labor endured by the Latino community that is often dismissed,” said Checa, who is a resident artist at Oolite Arts. “For instance, sound is a key element in my work that motivates movement, much like music does at job sites. These everyday experiences and objects are growing footnotes for my work.”
The title for the show comes from Checa’s own experience in his job as a maintenance worker on boats and yachts. While working, Checa often sees himself caught in-between two suns – the one on the horizon and another reflected off the water, or on the fiberglass of the boat’s hull. He sees his life as lived between two places – between his demanding job and his art practice, between his desire to create and the necessity to provide for his family, and between his work on the water and his studio at Oolite Arts where he creates by night.
At the opening reception, Checa will collaborate with Miami-based artist Nick León to activate the main gallery in a three-hour performance. This process-driven performance, mobilized by sound, will entail Checa repetitively mixing, pouring, and molding plaster, using a network of PVC structures and hoses to complicate the labor process.
Meanwhile, another installation in the gallery consists of a small drip of a mixture of collected sweat, water and dirt from a boat’s bilge. This concoction will fill a mold for a record that will ultimately be frozen, then played during an upcoming performance before it melts and self-destructs.
The opening reception will take place from 6 – 9 p.m. Feb. 7, 2024 and the exhibition will be on view through April 14, 2024 at Oolite Arts, 924 Lincoln Road.
About Alberto Checa
Alberto Checa is a multidisciplinary artist who immigrated to Miami from Cuba in 2008. Seeking to recontextualize the labor of the Latino working class within the American landscape through empathy, obsession and process, Checa utilizes abstract world building and DIY systems that reveal the exploitative and futile nature of the work employed by Brown bodies. Drawing directly from the Cuban legacies of object improvisations, and influenced by the writing in Con Nuestros Propios Esfuerzos, Checa engages with utilitarian materials – such as PVC pipes, water vacuums and plaster – as foundation to his practice, building structural and instrumental sculptures that later, when combined with designated garments and curated sounds, activates as performance. In these processes, Checa complicates the birthing of a “final product” while fulfilling a “function”, often an arduous task, bringing to light the hidden labor and futile loop that exists in the process of Capitalist modes of production.
Checa received a BFA from Tufts University and a BA from University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins. Checa has exhibited and performed both locally and internationally, including at Satellite Art Show Performance is Alive (Miami), Central Saint Martins (London), and Anderson Gallery (Boston. Additionally, Checa was awarded Oolite Arts’ “Ellies” Creator Award as well as the Dean’s Research Award from Tufts University.
About Jean Chung
Jean Chung is a painter and writer currently based in New York City. Drawing from a queer immigrant lens, Chung works primarily around narratives of intimacy that arise from in-betweenness and opacity. Expanding on the idea of observation and research as an act of self and communal care, Chung’s practice stems from a diaristic approach that includes repetition and the constant translation between photo, painting and text.
Chung received a BFA from the School of Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University where she graduated with the Dana Pond Award in Painting. Her writings have been featured in Kolik Film Issue 39 (Vienna), Pilot Press Anthology (London) as well in acquisition with Tisch Library at Tufts University (Boston).
About Oolite Arts
Oolite Arts strives to empower artists and enrich communities. Established in 1984, Oolite’s mission is to support artists and advance the knowledge and practice of contemporary visual arts. Oolite Arts creates opportunities for experimentation and innovation, and encourages the exchange of ideas across diverse cultures through residencies, exhibitions, public programs, education and outreach.
Exhibitions and programs at Oolite Arts are made possible with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council; the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; the City of Miami Beach, Cultural Affairs Program, Cultural Arts Council; the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Jorge M. Perez Family Foundation at the Miami Foundation; the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Family Foundation; and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
For more information, visit oolitearts.org. Follow @oolitearts on social media.
Media Contact: Andrea Salazar, Pinzur Communications, [email protected]