American, Caribbean and Chinese culture are inextricably meshed in Sojourn Summits, the first Italian solo exhibition of Miguel Angel Payano Jr. (1980, New York), who is presenting a series of new works in the Milan premises of the Galleria Poggiali
from 24 March to 4 May 2022.
In the artists research the three cultures that he belongs to come together to explore issues such as human socialisation and the mechanisms of identity formation, creating works that combine painting and sculpture and are at once productive and seductive. Motifs and objects originating from America, the Caribbean and China are overlaid in surreal anthropomorphic representations that gesticulate and, in a sarcastic and insolent manner, impel the observer to address questions of race, geography and identity. And, very often, the works of Miguel Angel Payano Jr. emerge in response to incorrect interpretations sparked by his living in the midst of different cultures with vastly divergent customs and traditions that can trigger misunderstandings and minor transcultural conceptual rifts that somehow succeed in adding new meanings.
Sojourn Summits, the new cycle of paintings and sculptures by Miguel Angel Payano Jr. explores the importance of language in our understanding and our relations with one another. We make connections through conversations and adaptations to heterogeneous geographies, internalising other peoples language in a way that can give rise to mistaken translations, synecdochic gags and visual metaphors.
The motif of the peach with a human mouth painted on it is a recurrent and essential feature in the artists works. The fruit is depicted like an independent sentient creature, a visual symbol of the power of language. In this cycle of the most recent works, the multi-presence or simultaneous maintenance of a number of geographical positions is at once a pivotal theme and an optical trick. In the paintings, the anthropomorphic figures intertwine, at once like three geographies and three cultural forces. Fragments of Italian everyday life that the artist picked up during his stay in Milan are incorporated into these works, whispering enigmatic messages to the visitor. As Miguel Angel Payano Jr himself explains:
For me, making art is an extension of the journey I take through the thoughts that dwell in my imagination. It is my instrument of contemplation. Whether I am contemplating the contents, the depth of vision or the tangibility, I am following paths made up of questions that at once spawn the works of Sojourn Summits and call them into question. I offer you my scrupulous reflections in the form of hills, mountains or heaps of pigment.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue published by the Galleria Poggiali complete with a critical essay by the New York curator Jasmin Hernandez, founder of the Gallery Gurls project. This is an award-winning digital arena that has been celebrating black and Afro-American culture in contemporary art since 2012. Hernandez writes for Harper's Bazaar, Latina, Bustle, ELLE, CNN Style and Sotheby's.