The substitutes and the absence

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Z'otz* Collective, Panoramic Prose 2013, mixed media /image: Emily Wright

Z’otz* Collective, Panoramic Prose 2013, mixed media /image: Emily Wright

Long name, great art

Article: Taylor Marshall – Contributor

Deceptively simple and almost childlike at first glance, “The Substitutes and the Absence” gallery by Z’otz Collective, the Canadian group composed of artists Nahúm Flores, Erik Jerezano, and Ilyana Martínez, presents a much more beguiling and quirky presentation to the viewer upon further examination.

Running from Sep. 6 until Oct. 27, “The Substitutes and the Absence” exhibit offers a fascinating and enigmatic body of work, one that I encourage all to explore and enjoy.

At Regina’s Dunlop Art Gallery, the exhibit features strange and at times grotesque images of the body, drawing on themes of transformation and mythology, all rendered in a seemingly uncomplicated form. Despite the clean and elegant presentation of these unique portraits, Z’otz Collective’s method of creation is far from simple, but rather engaging and intensive. What is truly original about this exhibit is the genuinely collaborative method in which the drawings are created.

Speaking with curator Blair Fornwald, she breaks down and expands on the artists’ process. Martínez, Jerezano, and Flores “have been collaborating and have been friends for over ten years, they’ve been meeting every Sunday, doing collaborative exercises” which Fornwald asserts “has drawing as the heart of their exercises.”

The three artists decide together which works are successful, which Fornwald adds “the artists refer to as ‘fresh fish’” and the drawings that fall short deemed as “roast chickens.” What’s more, Fornwald says that the art remains collaborative until the final product, as the artists conduct “their group critique and collectively title their works.”

Focusing on the group itself, Z’otz Collective is a Canadian group of three artists that bring their own nuanced styles to create a collective product. All with a Latin American origin, Martínez was born in Toronto and raised in both Mexico and the United States and often focuses on marked dichotomies between nature and culture in her solo practice.

[pullquote]“[The artists] explore contemporary and personal situations, and don’t strictly conform to Latin American mythology to convey their themes, but rather draw from their imaginations and have sources and figures that continue to reappear in their work.”[/pullquote]

Flores was born in Honduras and produces highly political elements with found objects in his work, and Jerezano, from Mexico City, creates art-illustrating mythology from his region of Mexico or creates personal mythology.

Fornwald says “[which] contributes to a highly synthesized form of art.”

Meeting in Toronto over ten years ago, these artists meet weekly to work together on multi-media projects, all of which include drawing, collage, painting, culture, and drawing installations. Z’otz is the Mayan word for bat, which Fornwald says is “a sacred animal in Mayan culture, playing a very important role in Mayan folklore and myth. It is the conduit between the physical and the spiritual world.”

Apart from mythology, modern ideas are explored in the exhibit. Fornward notes that that the artists “still draw on popular culture” with such figures and recognizable images of “fashion magazines and ninja turtle heads” visible in the drawings.

She adds that the artists “explore contemporary and personal situations, and don’t strictly conform to Latin American mythology to convey their themes, but rather draw from their imaginations and have sources and figures that continue to reappear in their work.”

This exhibit offers the viewer a unique glimpse of the final project reached through the culmination of a collective imagination, and is a great opportunity to view a truly collaborative creation.

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