Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a member today »

Installation view of "Retrato #29 (Portrait #29)" (1998) in Tomás Esson: The GOAT, Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, 2020 (all images courtesy Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; photo by Zachary Balber)

MIAMI — In Tomás Esson’s first solo museum presentation, the painter’s fleshy, anthropomorphic bodies emerge from more of them: a newly commissioned mural, “Wet Wall Drawing at ICA” (2020), spreads across a gallery-length wall and frames works like “Retrato #29 (Portrait #29)” (1998), in which a bovine creature leaks, lactates, and bellows. In a recent interview, the Miami-based artist discussed the mural’s significance, the way it highlights “the five fundamental elements of life…the vagina, the breast, the mouth, the penis, and the anus.” It’s a whirling gyroscope, in black gesso, of tongues, butts, spillage.

In addition to more Wet Paintings, a series he began in the early 1990s, The GOAT takes viewers through 35 years of Esson’s studio practice, including his Retratos (Portraits) series and political skewers — such as “Mi homenaje al Che (My Homage to Che)” (1987), a painting that drew ire in his native Havana, Cuba. The claws and breasts of the beast-like figures lustily intertwined before Che’s visage appear throughout Esson’s work; their spiraled, emphatic movement is reflected even in the humanoid ribbons of “Seaweed” (2019), a piece inspired by the flora of Miami. Elsewhere, torsos fold into genitalia in anatomic ouroboroi; earthen mythological monsters emerge from the sea. Esson’s delightful reverence of the corporeal reminds me: oceanic waters are not unlike bodily fluids.

Tomás Esson: The GOAT continues through May 2, 2021 at ICA Miami (61 NE 41st Street, Miami, FL). The exhibition is curated by Gean Moreno.

Support Hyperallergic

As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever. 

Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.

Become a Member

Monica Uszerowicz

Monica Uszerowicz is a writer and photographer in Miami, FL. She has contributed work to BOMB, Los Angeles Review of Books' Avidly channel, Hazlitt, VICE, and The Miami Rail.

Leave a comment