Leandro Erlich: Liminal / Pérez Art Museum Miami

Leandro Erlich: Liminal is the first monographic survey exhibition of Leandro Erlich‘s work in North America. Liminal features 16 site-specific works that span more than two decades of Erlich’s career, including his most popular installation, the Swimming Pool. The exhibition runs until September 4, 2023.

Leandro Erlich: Liminal / Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). Miami, November 30, 2022.

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Press text (excerpt):

Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is pleased to present Leandro Erlich: Liminal, an immersive exhibition featuring iconic artworks by Argentine artist Leandro Erlich, opening on November 29, 2022. Selected and arranged by New York-based guest curator Dan Cameron, the exhibition marks the artist’s first monographic survey show in North America and features 16 works spanning more than two decades of Erlich’s production.

“I believe in art as a practice that sparks dialogue—a dynamic and ongoing conversation with the audience and the greater context. I have never created a project or work without placing the audience’s participation at the center of the experience or without considering the surrounding environment. Architecture is often a key element in my work, and I incorporate local architectural language and cultural constructs that enliven my practice. I have been a nomadic artist for more than two decades, exploring territory far beyond my native Buenos Aires and journeying far outside of my comfort zone. However, as I approach fifty, I consider myself deeply Argentine. This cornerstone of my identity lends particular significance to my first mid-career survey at PAMM, a museum steeped in Latin American culture and heritage. Miami is a cultural nexus between North and South America, between hemispheres and languages. It’s a privilege to show my work in a context that is embedded in my own life,” said Leandro Erlich.

The exhibit is conceived as a sequence of spaces that one might encounter every day: an elevator, subway, classroom, hair salon, sidewalk, swimming pool, laundry room—even a window through which the neighbors’ windows can be seen. Each space is a precise simulation of these ordinary scenarios, but Erlich’s touch fosters extraordinary experiences. A window is air, a reflection is missing, bodies travel in time and space.

Arranged throughout PAMM’s special exhibition galleries, Liminal has been designed to offer an underlying narrative, leading viewers through a series of experiences that act cumulatively to cast doubt on the act of perception and expand its possibilities. Visitors will have the opportunity to interact with some of Erlich’s most widely known artworks and installations, including Swimming Pool; this work allows viewers to look down and see people “underwater” (through a layer of water contained in transparent glass), while those below exist in a type of suspended reality, adorned by the play of light and water on the aquamarine walls. Other works include The Cloud, Erlich’s celebrated glass sculptures of ephemeral beauty and the labyrinthine mystery of Changing Rooms. Characteristically participatory, Erlich’s work offers viewers an active role in installations like Hair Salon and Classroom.

“I was fortunate to get to know Leandro Erlich’s work in the early 1990s in Argentina, and ever since I’ve been consistently amazed by his genius at transforming vernacular architectural spaces into bewildering visual paradoxes. Because of the special challenges his sculptures present in terms of their design and construction, most people have only been able to experience one piece by Leandro Erlich at a time. Ever since I had the unique opportunity, in 2008, to commission Ladder and Window, a new outdoor work, for Prospect.1 in New Orleans, I’ve been obsessed with organizing a survey exhibition of his work for a US museum. It’s a huge commitment on PAMM’s part to take on a project of this scale and complexity, but not really a risk, in light of the first version of Liminal’s extremely successful run three years ago at MALBA in Buenos Aires. For me, Miami is the ideal city to initiate the in-depth appreciation of his work that his artistic achievement truly warrants.” said guest curator Dan Cameron.

Since the late 1990s, Erlich (b.1973) has created a highly distinctive body of sculptures and site-specific installations in which the architectural appearance of the everyday functions as a perceptual trap, leading the viewer into a visual paradox that systematically defies certain laws and attributes of the material world. In Erlich’s parallel universe, stairs lead nowhere, elevators never arrive, passive spectators become active participants, clouds acquire ceremonial solidity, and the integrity of constructed spaces reveals their bottomless nature.

“In the hands of Leandro Erlich, art and magic are often one in the same,” said PAMM Director Franklin Sirmans. “Egyptian, Greek and Roman art of antiquity often illustrated magical spells and incantations for supernatural power. In the 20th Century with the advent of artists as shamans, the power of art has often been connected to the presence of magic. For Latin American writers in the mid-20th century, Magical Realism, not unlike Afrofuturism in the present, opened up worlds that seemingly did not exist in the history of Colonialism. Erlich is hyper aware of such histories and though he may find kinship, his art speaks to the here and now in important ways that highlight global humanism and coexistence. Seeing one of his works by yourself just doesn’t have the same impact as viewing with others. For, rare is the work of art by Erlich that doesn’t involve the physical presence of multiple viewers.”

The exhibition’s title refers to the indeterminate threshold between spaces or experiences, a state rich with the possibility of crossing over, or entering into, a new realm—which is what viewers often find in Erlich’s work. To hover at the liminal edge positions us between one reality (that has been left behind), and a new reality that beckons from just beyond our reach. Erlich’s work challenges our trust that we know where we are in the physical world and how that world behaves, casting a spell of enchantment over our waking lives. The accumulated impact of Erlich’s craft imbues viewers with an intensified awareness of the inherent multiplicity of experience and a reverence for what we do not yet understand.

Leandro Erlich was born in Argentina in 1973. He lives and works between Paris, Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Over the past two decades, his work has been shown internationally and featured in the permanent collections of major museums and private collectors. His most recent exhibitions at the MORI Art Museum (Tokyo, 2017), MALBA (Buenos Aires, 2019), CAFAM (Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, 2019 and CCBB (Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, 2021-202) broke all admission records.

He went on to study at the Core Program, an artist residency in Houston, Texas (Glassell School of Art, 1998). In 2001 he became Argentina’s representative at the 49th Venice Biennale with Swimming Pool, a landmark piece that is part of the permanent collection at The 21st Century Museum of Art of Kanazawa (Japan) and the Voorlinden Museum (Netherlands).

As a conceptual artist, his work explores the perceptual bases of reality and our capacity to interrogate these same foundations through a visual framework. The architecture of the everyday is a recurring theme in Erlich’s art, aimed at creating a dialogue between what we believe and what we see, just as he seeks to close the distance between the museum or gallery space and daily experience.

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