Aluna Art Foundation’s inaugural exhibit Concerning the Spiritual in Art opened its doors recently to showcase both renown and unrepresented artists within the Miami art scene, presenting a collection of works that reflect their search for the spiritual and the transcendental.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Kandinsky had written in his book of 1911 about a new abstract language born out of the artists’ genuine inner necessity of spirituality and freedom. Art had to be born from within. This spiritual quest initiated in modernism is recaptured a century later here, in the midst of contemporaneity, where the search for spirituality becomes once again the driving force for artistic creation.

Aluna’s curatorial collective art historian Willy Castellanos and El Nuevo Herald art critic Adriana Herrera, have put together an exhilarating collection of eleven artists working in diverse media, all embarked in the same dialogue with the spiritual, the mystical, the divine and the infinite –yet in their own unique way. They aim to ‘reflect a human aspiration that is impossible in principle: to provide a form to that which is formless’, affirms Herrera.

The splendid variety of media -using materials within a wide spectrum that includes metal or silk, abstract or figurative mystical paintings, installations with crystal spheres and Plexiglas and even sculptures and photography, excites the visual senses, conveying in different languages the materialization of spirituality as a source for creativity while generating new interesting dialects within contemporary art.

The central space of the gallery features a group exhibit from ten Pan-American artists:  the Colombians Jorge Cavalier and Sara Modiano, the Argentinean Nicolas Leiva, Venezuelans Andrés Michelena, Evelyn Valdirio and Lili(ana) González, and Cubans Heriberto Mora and Raimundo Travieso. The organization of the exhibit in this main space seems to conform to the original physiognomy of the gallery plan; each artist has been isolated in a room or within a room for better clarity and appreciation of their works. As each piece is given space to operate, they establish an animate dialogue with themselves and a further powerful dialogue with the invisible within the human senses and perceptions.

  Striking the visitor upon entering are Cavelier’s installations: a mix of large canvases, a series of curved laser-cut labyrinth and circular aluminum sculptures, along with an exquisite silk painting –reminiscent of traditional Chinese landscapes. Inevitably linked to Thoreau’s transcendental ideas on restorative green spaces, Cavelier deals with the imagery of the forest as a medium for spiritual regeneration and cyclical renewal of the soul, reaching a new level of sophistication in the representation of landscape imagery with his Bosque Redondo andgold Labyrinth (2008). Evocative of the Gothic in a new contemporary fashion, they are ultimately atemporal and universal archetypal forms to which he gives a new formal solution in his installations.

Equally large are Leiva’s experimental artisanal metal plates, all named after Proverbs from the Bible.  They invigorate the visual senses as one is drawn up-close to appreciate the traces of ‘the hand that hits the metal with the concentration of a prayer’, says Leiva. Also working with metal is Modiano’s abstract cubic wire mesh installation Ser 4 of 2002. With her view that ‘Infinity exists in everything and everywhere’, she created a three dimensional space that perpetually extends into infinity when reflected into mirrors.

Lili(Ana)’s Anotaciones de lo Invisible (2007/2010) also depict in a three dimensional manner the ephemerality of life and the powerful experience of spiritualism. Her contemporary approach –a layering of floating photographs in silk-like fabric, enhances the viewer’s experience; the translucent material illuminates her images from within and dissolves them into the spectator’s space with a paranormal force as they levitate from the wall to expand onto your very own spirit -specially her Anotaciones de lo Invisible –Deva, Nature Spirit (2010). It is interesting how she combines the subtleness, the evanescence of these images of small dimensions, with a type of industrial installation -by tensing them up with metallic hooks, as a way to reflect that the spiritual can exist and appear anywhere.

Similarly dark and powerful are Michelena’s exploration of the cosmic Buddhist void. The obscure canvases and acrylic sculpture of Buddha Empty Nest (2008) evoke the emptiness, openness, interconnectedness and impermanence of all things, swallowing the spectator into a deep reflective trance. Valdirio’s angel depictions are nothing less unforgettable: her canvases empower the room with visions of angels surrounding the dark paths of human masses in history. The most penetrating one is San Miguel Arcangel (2012), illustrating a dream the artist had in which archangel Gabriel hovers upon war facing nations in the Middle East. It’s a cry for protection and spiritual guidance. With similar religious connotations, Travieso presents a canvas that evokes with basic traces forms that have a profound resonance in the human subconscious such as the cross.  The mystical experience of the show is accompanied by the contemplative music of Fernando Gonzales, working in a powerful audio-illusion of tunes that ‘stretch and contract’ to heighten the state of meditation and reflection.

Especially noteworthy was the performance of American artist Billie Grace Lynn -part of her ongoing Mad Cow project. Held in the project room at the back of the gallery, her confrontational performance dealt with themes of slaughterhouse cruelty and environmental degradation. It started with a truly remarkable ceremonial walk around the gallery of a cab skeleton held on strings by visitors, a kinetic sculpture created by the artist. It was as if the skeleton was animated by spiritual breath and all spectators were participating of this giving of life to what was dead, bearing strong connotations with the name of the show. Immediately after this she sat in a milking stool and invited spectators to take turns in cutting her hair, while projecting videos of slaughterhouses and industrial pollution reflected upon the walls. An act of desperation, loss, fear, pain and of self-mutilation, Lynn’s performance connected her spiritually to the souls of these animals as they ‘are conscious beings who feel love and fear’, and in a greater level, to the suffering of earth as she cries out for help.

The exhibition is successful in inducing a strange reverence towards not only the spiritual represented through these pieces, but towards man himself and this search that is so identifiable within each one of us. It touches the viewers deeply and on a personal level, further inviting to reflection upon the ephemerality of life and the imminence of death. In doing so, the show presents us not only a spiritual search, but with a search for new techniques, forms and modes of representation that so characterizes contemporary art. It reveals innovative and recent works within the artists’ trajectory as they use different media in their own experimental ways, being part of unprecedented formal explorations of their individual productions. As Kandinsky once reflected, these new discoveries have generated from the very need of the human unconscious to communicate with the infinite, the universal, the sacred, and the perpetual.