Roots and Reflections: A Journey through Time and Nature
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Firetti Contemporary is thrilled to present Roots and Reflections: A Journey through Time and Nature, a group show featuring four contemporary artists: Robert Santore, Jason Middlebrook, Sylvestre Gauvrit, and Halim Flowers. It is focused on three themes fundamental to the human experience: memory and identity, nature and environment, and innovation and experimentation. The show will be open to the public until 31 August 2023.

Robert Santore’s art pieces convey the theme of memory and identity: the artist delves into his personal history and cultural roots. He spent his childhood moving between the UK and California, so he began creating art at a young age as a way to process his experiences. 

African-American artist Halim Flowers also explores such subjects as memory and identity in his work. Having faced the faults of the criminal justice system, he draws on his experiences to explore themes of race, identity, and the human condition. His artworks challenge a viewer to confront their assumptions and biases about identity and societal norms. They emphasise the importance of diversity in art and the power of visual storytelling to inspire critical reflection and promote social change.

The theme of nature and environment is explored through the art pieces of Sylvestre Gauvrit and Jason Middlebrook. Gauvrit’s organic sculptures made of marble make a spectator reflect on their relationship with the world of nature. Middlebrook’s wooden sculptures are carved and hewn tree trunks with geometric compositions on them. These artists’ works invite one to consider the relationship between art and nature and to contemplate the ways in which nature shapes one’s lives and art.

The show also highlights innovation and experimentation, as demonstrated through Robert Santore’s mixed media art pieces and the sculptures of Sylvestre Gauvrit. These artworks push the boundaries of what is possible with various mediums and invite viewers to see the world in new and unexpected ways.

About the artists

Robert Santore (b. 1961, Houston, Texas, the USA) is an internationally recognised American artist, painter, and sculptor whose art practice involves using a full range of different mediums (soils, watercolours, gouache, egg tempera, steel, wood, and others). He studied at the Parsons School of Design (New York); he also studied at the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design (Los Angeles, California) and later at the University Of California (Irvine).

Robert Santore, “HIGH YEIELD, JUNKBOND”, 1989. 60 x 276 in (152.4 x 548.64 cm) | Oil, oil stick, military and industrial enamels, roofing tar, solvent-transfer, newsprint, chalk and charcoal on canvas on birch panels.

Santore is famous for his expressive paintings that often feature abstracted figures, words, phases, urban landscapes, and other elements rendered in a bold manner; he uses vivid colours and strong, gestural brushstrokes. The artist’s layered artworks feature intricate details which reflect his memories of childhood full of travels and the historical and cultural events that shaped him. A surfer and skier, Santore still loves travelling to pursue his passion for sports, get new experiences and get exposed to classical and contemporary art and architecture. 

Jason Middlebrook (b. 1966, Jackson, Michigan, the USA) is an American artist who resides in Hudson, New York. His artistic practice includes sculptures, installations, paintings, and drawings. In 1990, he received his BFA from the University of California at Santa Cruz, (Santa Cruz, California) and his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (San Francisco, California) in 1994. From 1994 to 1995, Middlebrook also took part in an Independent Study Program at The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, New York). 

Jason Middlebrook, We all can Relate, 2018. Acrylic on Maple. 27 1/2 in x 24 in x 1 in.

In his art, in which natural forms and found objects are combined, Middlebrook explores the relationships between man, technology, and nature. To create his works, he utilises wood, broken glass, mirrored tiles, and other materials. The artist’s most known artworks involve carving and shaping tree trunks into canvases for abstract forms, graphic patterns, and geometric shapes.

Sylvestre Gauvrit (b. 1977, Moulins, France) is a French sculptor who is known for his exquisite art pieces. He received his Bachelor degree from the Scientific High School (La Rochelle, France) and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts (Carrara, Italy) in 2006, where he studied Sculpture. 

Sylvestre Gauvrit, DIVERTIMENTO, 2017.​ Carrara marble/Lebanon Cedar/Armed concrete. 175 x 90 x 46 cm. ​

Inspired by his childhood spent in oak wood, Gauvrit creates flowing organic shaped  sculptures made of marble or marine-grade stainless steel; they range anywhere from 2 ft tall to upwards of 13 ft tall. He describes his artworks as the coming together of positive and negative forces. The sculptor incorporates four elements into his works: humour (the joy of creating), sensuality (his sculptures are meant to be touched), harmony (a natural balance), and paradox (the mind’s attempt to process and recognize the abstract form). 

Halim A. Flowers (b. 1980, Washington, DC) is a self-taught artist, author, and a passionate advocate for human rights who lives and works in Washington, DC. He works between the visual and performing arts through various mediums, such as painting, sound, fashion, and performance. 

Halim Flowers, CP5: Superheroes Not Superpredators, 2020. Acrylic and oil sticks on canvas. 36 × 36 in | 91.4 × 91.4 cm.

When Flowers was 16, he was arrested and wrongfully sentenced to life in prison; after 22 years behind bars, he was released. While in prison, Flowers became a memoirist and poet: he wrote and published 11 non-fiction works about the causes and consequences of the American prison system. After his release, he received the Halcyon Arts Lab and Echoing Green fellowship awards; thus, he was provided with the resources and support needed to create and exhibit his art.  

The artist creates politically charged paintings to reclaim the individuality and agency broken down in a prison. His artworks embody the ambition of racial justice, prison reform, and financial literacy. Even if the issues he addresses in his art are quite dark, his art pieces suggest a sense of renewal, positivity, and hope. After all, Flowers’ most famous quote is “Love is the Antibody”. 

To learn more about Roots and Reflections: A Journey through Time and Nature, please visit the show’s official web page.

You might also be interested in visiting The only constant at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery.