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Review: global pop culture in paintings and photocollages 

Rubem Robierb at Octavia Art Gallery and Vanessa Centeno at The Front

click to enlarge blood_orange_butterfly_--_g.jpg

The cities with the most interesting art scenes usually have unique visual identities. Miami can be notoriously crass, but it's also dynamic and colorful thanks to Hispanic and Caribbean influences, which are seen in its art. If older Miami artists evoked the soulful sensibilities of their homelands, more recent arrivals like Brazilian native Rubem Robierb often embody a mix of tropical color and global pop culture. His big War-Hol Flowers painting recalls Andy Warhol's classic 1960s flower graphics, but it is based on the florid patterns made by hollow-point bullets on impact. Rose Bouquet, a painting of a hand grenade in a floral arrangement, is similarly ballistic. Ditto Butterfly II (pictured), a blood orange butterfly that is actually a bullet depicted against a blue background, and Love Changes Everything is a 3-foot-tall sculpture of a bullet with a tip covered in Swarovski crystals. Beautiful but creepy, these colorful, crisply executed works could be seen as glamorizing weaponry, but presumably were intended as critiques of pop culture's incessant fetishization of violence.

Facebook is such a familiar part of everyday life that it's easy to forget how weird it really is. New Orleans artist Vanessa Centeno is fascinated by its alternative reality aspects, and the fanciful way some people present themselves on Instagram. Centeno is known for her explorations of the nexus of female identity and pop culture, and here an installation of dreamlike images projected on reflective panels represents Instagram as a digital hall of mirrors experience. But it is her photocollages on the walls that effectively turn glamour girl cliches inside out in images where glossy hair, silky skin and glittering jewels become entangled with the more visceral aspects of the body and its orifices. Unexpectedly and eerily beautiful, their surreal physicality and colorful nuances seduce us into confronting the voracious social, physical and emotional neediness that people sometimes experience and that Instagram reflects and glamorizes in seemingly infinite variations.

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