Temporary Contemporary

Friends of the Bass Museum, Inc. d/b/a Bass Museum of Art

Funding Received: 2012
Miami Beach, FL
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
January 31, 2014

Juan López, “Dry the Wall” (2013); Presented as part of tc: temporary contemporary; photo by Juan López, courtesy of the artist and ArtCenter/South Florida

The ArtCenter/South Florida’s Richard Shack Gallery has been looking rather unusual for the last few months. For visitors who had not been into the gallery space before, it took a few moments to realize that something strange was going on. Upon entering, visitors were faced with a white, sculptural wall that extended from floor to ceiling, but on closer inspection, the structure seemed a little odd. Rather than meet the ground straight on, the wall seemed “folded” onto the floor, and the surface of the structure also appeared to include several “folds.” The location of the air vent was also unusual; it was positioned vertically rather than horizontally (the more common configuration) . . . And what was that hole doing in the black section of wall above?

After an understandable double take, all began to become clear. By covering the wall above the gallery’s front windows with black vinyl and building the white ‘folded’ structure, the wall appeared to have been peeled back and folded down onto the floor as though it were a giant sheet of paper. Such wry interventions are characteristic of Juan López’s work, since he engages with architecture and the urban environment. By playing with space—and also with words—López challenges viewers’ perception of their surroundings.


Spanish-born and Madrid-based López is the first of a number of visiting artists from outside of the United States to undertake a residency with the ArtCenter in 2014 as we celebrate its 30th anniversary. Several of the exhibited works (including the previously discussed “(f)old down,” 2013), were directly influenced by López’s observations of Miami Beach. “The Logic – The Moment” (2013) is another work that exhibits López’s growing familiarity with the local area. The piece consists of the quote, “The logic of sculpture is inseparable from the logic of the monument,” taken from celebrated art critic and theorist Rosalind Krauss’s essay “Sculpture in the Expanded Field.” Using video projection, López illuminates various configurations of letters to form different messages; much like what happens when part of a neon sign burns out. The work plays with the sense of Krauss’s original assertion, and suggests a wider, sometimes contradictory view. Whether they are familiar with Krauss’s essay and argument, habitués of Lincoln Road would have picked up on an additional twist presented by the work—each letter was taken from the sign of a local store, prompting viewers to recognize the “S” from “Sketchers” signage or an “ä” from the “Hofbräu Beer Hall” sign.


The work that probably received the most attention was “Dry the Wall” (2013), presented in the large glass-plate windows facing Meridian Road, which normally afford a view into the gallery. (López removed this possibility by covering the windows.) Instead, passersby could see what was going on in the gallery via four monitors embedded in the drywall. The apparent violence required to make each hole was reinforced by López’s use of vinyl tape to create the impression of a heavily cracked surface. From inside the gallery, viewers could only see a white wall punctuated by four black dome-shaped CCTV cameras.

Public art is often discussed in terms of its ability to “disrupt” a space and cause the public to view a familiar environment differently; this work in particular may well have achieved this aim. However, “Dry the Wall” also communicates a further intent. There is something willfully perverse about blocking up the mechanism through which a space can normally be seen clearly, and replacing it with screens that allow the viewer only part of the visual access that the original window afforded. Similarly, mediated viewing (through cameras and a screen rather than a window) creates a strange sense of dislocation. It is also significant that López chose to utilize a method of surveillance that is in increasingly common in urban areas. This piece promotes careful thought about the recording of our movements in public spaces while the exhibition as a whole encourages visitors to reacquaint themselves with the actuality of their surroundings through López’s particular form of “poetic resistance.”