Master of the Double Take

Colombian artist Federico Uribe is obsessed with objects… not just some objects, but many… books, sneakers, shoes, shoelaces, cartons, to name a few. His work is currently on view at the Hudson River Museum in an installation called Fantasy River which nearly rivals the museum’s famous Ruckus Manhattan by Red Grooms. There’s a certain irony and whimsy in Uribe’s work, making it immediately endearing. He creates huge sculptures of birds, animals, flora and fauna and places them in a three-dimensional tableau, depicting a winding river, corn fields, a grandiose sun and blue sky. Only when you look closely at the tree, do you realize the branches are made of ordinary garden rakes. And then you relish that OMG moment.

At first glance you might think he is an environmentalist. This is due in part to the fact that these life-size idyllic scenes are made of common everyday  objects. However, these objects are not recycled. Rather, they are new. They are also newly contextualized. So, for example, he cuts up hundreds of books to make a tree. He uses bronze bullet cases to create an animal skin. One can’t help but compare these to ones that may have been fired off by a hunter. Looking closely at a sheep one finds the fluffy fur is actually punctured ping pong balls. I scratched my brow as I discovered leather shoes were transformed into the animal from whence they likely came. It’s a reverse life cycle that seems to pull everything back to nature. Curator Bart Bland found Uribe in Miami where he lives, works and rethinks reality with the notion that everything looks like something else…sort of like looking up at the clouds and seeing elephants.  Uribe is at his best when the objects he uses reflect the past or future of the creation.  My favorite is a flower box filled with plantings made of green hoses and colorful faucets.  Who would have thunk? This artist is the master of the double take.

Photo: “We Don’t Need Water” by Federico Uribe

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