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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)

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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.

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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.