Looking past the light, and gazing deeply into the photography to discern the eyes, mouth, nose, and lips behind and was unable to bring the artist identity into focus. Albano Afonso choose to use light, not to highlight a strong jaw or sharp nose, but to blur the line of reality just enough to venture into the line between dream and reality that define surrealism. This use of light and wit carry through each of the generations of his work and enable him to show a contrast of his need to be anonymous along with his need to understand his place in art history.

The current display of Afonso’s work spreads from the upstairs galleries of the Contemporary Arts Center, down the stairs, around the building,(which is plastered in Afonso’s interpretation of a rain forest), and into the first floor gallery of 21c. Museum Hotel next door.  The slick rainforest design doesn’t just decorate the cold exteriors of the two buildings, but it also signifies a collaborative unity between the two arts institutions in bringing Afonso back to Cincinnati after his work debuted at 21C last year.

With this in mind, this exploration of Afonso’s practice feels immersive, almost like a mid-career retrospective:  Starting with his self-portrait series where her used flashes and reflections to remove his identity and manipulate the rest of the shot to exude a mood, he then moved to his explore his place in art history and finally expanded into sculpture and installation work that surround the audience and coaxes reflection instead of forcing it through mirrors.

Afonoso found a way to expand and destroy portraits from a bygone era, while slipping slits of his own self-portrait in-between and in some cases using the reflective surface of mirrors to bring the viewer into the mix (by bradley). At first glance these works may look like the work of a frustrated artist whose only tool was a hole puncher, but looking at the bigger picture you can see the intricate patterns and designs that dance across the pieces.

Along with these slightly subtractive sculpted 2D works, Afonoso made momento mori mobiles, where spines and skulls hang alongside metal plumbs. These enchanted items glisten and sway without a care and force viewers to reflect on their own mortality as it is dangled in front of them.

A final work is tucked between the hallway and gallery, a work that uses light, sculpture, image, and portraiture. It is a simple piece but one that leaves you with an impression that Afonoso has come a long way from his bathroom selfies and has grown into a mature artist who embraces the past and creates his own future.

–Katie Dreyer

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