Tomás Esson: Miami Flow

/ 1 September, 2017

From March 23rd to April 20th, Fredric Snitzer Gallery, located in Downtown Miami, presented the imposing exhibit Miami Flow by the Cuban American artist Tomas Esson, who is settled in Miami. Composed of six paintings and a series of drawings belonging to the Wet Painting series, Miami Flow not only captivates for the undeniable mastery of the technique that characterizes the work of this artist, but also for its sensuality and conceptual solidity.

Tomas Esson Reid (La Habana, 1963) is without doubt one of the most forceful painters that contemporary Cuban art has generated. Esson’s excellent technique always turns into delight the observation of his work. Paradoxically, the pictorial ecstasy generated by his savoir-faire is always shaken by the subjects he approaches, in which kitsch, eschatology and violence materialize as leitmotiv. Tomas Esson’s pictorial entities are an instinctive portrait of that caged anguish which is the human existence itself: vulvas, penises, horns, ejaculations, gobs of spit, pubic hair, indescribable beings that share the tormented condition of beast and demigod, that are animals uttering a mating call and spiritual entities at the same time.

(…) Miami Flow, as its title well suggests, is a constant pouring, idea that is stressed by the intrinsic nature of the pieces included in this exhibit and particularly by the series Wet Painting, whose drawings expand beyond the physical limit of the frame to become an immersive installation that floods everything surrounding it. Miami Flow alludes to that sensual trend that as icon, characterizes—and at the same time stigmatizes—Miami city, and on a quite personal level it introduces a third sense or meaning, closely linked to Tomas Esson’s proposal. In slang, Flow, refers to hair, the kind that is coarse and curly and livens up with the wind. This meaning that comes from hockey is now given another connotation: that of pubic hair, so dear to all the artist’s trajectory.

Although Miami Flow is focused on Esson’s most recent series, which gives title to the exhibit, it also includes a necessary flashing glance to previous series that function as an essential complement for the comprehension of this artist’s complex universe. (…) Beach (2016), Cachumbambé (Seesaw, 2016-2017) and Oráculo (Oracle, 2017) that feature at the central gallery, are exponents of the artist’s most recent series: Miami Flow. Full of the entities that have characterized all Esson’s trajectory, in this series the human figure looks as though it has transformed into a vegetal element. We can see exuberant biomorphic landscapes the “allover”, so dear to American expressionism, prevails. The colors are definitively torn off previous series like Wet Painting, in which the palette was determined by what Esson calls “fleshy colors”and that are limited to colors directly associated with what is human and to the five elements that compose Esson’s erogenous pentagram. Now, however, the palette is illuminated, and “The South Beach Palette”, created by Leonard Horowitz, prevails. The serialized element is imposed and it banishes the central point of interest, as it makes the eye jump from one part of the painting to another, like a feast of never ending forms. The notion of fluid associated to this series has a lot to do with sensuality and instability. The flower (vulva) is erected as the central element, while the lianas, stalks and pistils (the hair) support it.

Oráculo is a colossal piece that invariably recalls two masterpieces in the history of art: one of them is Claude Monet’s series The Water Lilies and the other one is Wifredo Lam’s The Jungle. The bursting landscape we observe is composed of a thoughtfully chosen palette that emphasizes the chromatic vibration resulting from the proximity of colors. The Miami Flow series also draws on going back to the same subject, over and over again, which permits Esson, the same way it did Monet, to convey ecstasy through the chromatic quality of the landscape. However, in Oráculo the apparent clam soon gives way to voracity and exuberance that, like in the case of The Jungle turns into a psychic state. Sensuality and eroticism turned into survival and debauchery at the same time. (…)

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