Critics’ Picks

  • View of “Vecinos / Neighbors,” 2020. Photo: Zachary Balber.

    View of “Vecinos / Neighbors,” 2020. Photo: Zachary Balber.

    Lucia Hierro

    Primary.
    7410 NW Miami Court
    Closed until further notice

    Walter Mercado, the cherished Puerto Rican astrologer, died last November; in January, Chinese media reported the first known death from COVID-19. The uncorrelated events seem to outline a cosmic ambigram: The loss of someone who was, for many, a divine comfort twists into the systemic upheaval of terrene life.

    Mercado appears alongside traditional holiday candies in Lucia Hierro’s Portate bien para que te dejen lo reye (all works 2020), a digital collage on suede depicting ephemera recognizable to Caribbean and Latino families, on view in the artist's exhibition “Vecinos / Neighbors.” Throughout, Hierro brings together and enlarges objects, often but not always culturally specific, that are used by her actual neighbors. Saint candles, commonly sold at bodegas, are rendered more than three feet tall. A cover of the widely circulated newspaper AM New York is replicated on a blanket-size piece of suede, made physically comforting. (Over email, Hierro told me she once watched a man blow his nose into an issue of the free daily, and mused, fondly, “That’s my neighbor.”)

    The word vecino implies vicinity, and the gallery comes to resemble a rebus for a city block, with stand-ins for the corner store as much as the strewn detritus. See the giant tub of Vicks VapoRub (Black Bag Up a Six Floor Walk-Up) and the colossal rendering of a take-out menu (Las Mellas Menu). Primary is located in a predominantly Caribbean neighborhood; Hierro invited its neighbors to hang with her relatives at the exhibition’s opening, a week before the citywide shutdown. Visiting the space later, once social distancing began, I found the works unwittingly eerie, transformed into artifacts of the community that inspired them. While Hierro’s works relate to the trend for supersize totems as shorthand for identity, “Vecinos / Neighbors” is less about personal tropes than shared ones.