Critics’ Picks

Dionisio Gonzalez, Heliopois II, 2008, color photograph, 39 3/8 x 68 7/8".


Dionisio Gonzalez

The Columns
135-100, Avenue Juno B1 63-14 Chungdamdong Gangnamgu
September 19–November 29

At first, the edifices in Dionisio Gonzalez’s large-format color photographs look distressingly realistic. But on closer examination, the manipulation they reflect becomes apparent, and the depth of the artist’s cultural criticism stands out. Gonzalez juxtaposes images of isolated sections of luxury postmodern architecture and Brazilian favelas, weaving together the geometric structures, mostly designed in the style of Daniel Libeskind and Frank Gehry, with images of dilapidated, cramped, graffiti-plagued, and miserable buildings to exaggerate the intimate juxtaposition of rich and poor that marks Brazilian society. Under clouds and otherwise uniformly blue sky, angular roofs switch from claptrap tin to curved stone. Children and adults occasionally crowd together under clotheslines full of ragged and worn garments. They squint through cigarette smoke or remain absorbed in menial tasks, lingering on the street or leaning out of apartments. At the same time, windows reveal airy, prefab spaces occupied by only a few cherry-red or black Danish modernist chairs. Fundamentally, the shantytowns’ disorder evidences their extreme deprivation and imprisonment in a timeless cycle of poverty and hopelessness, while the contrasting asymmetry of the newer stone, wood, and glass structures projects unmistakable affluence, sophistication, and forward-thinking attitudes. Often, Gonzalez leaves a faint ghost of the favela underneath his superimpositions, as if gentrification were only a transient and limited aspect of the areas’ ongoing histories. Or perhaps he is asserting that poverty is a cancer in struggling economies, in which the presence of a wealthy, progressive class offers only superficial change.