Isla de Silencios
The installations of Luis Flores have provided a theatre of exploratory performances over the years that have demonstrated his unusual artistic versatility -- incorporating sculpture, assemblage, printmaking, photography, and even his knowledge of Caribbean percussion. But what he seems to find most appealing about the genre of installation are the more unpredictable random elements that emerge through the process of interaction with the community of audience and participants, and the larger world beyond.
That "Luis Flores embodies the artistic concept of creative play"1 was especially evident in the site specific installations SEMILLAS / SEEDS (2001) and CASA LLENA / FULL HOUSE (2002), in which children's toys of predominantly primary colors were employed as found objects to achieve dramatically different visual effects. For SEMILLAS, ten toddler-size multicolored geodesic dome tents were tied and stitched together to form a curving seed pod-like structure about 7 ft. high, and spanning more than 20 ft. In CASA LLENA, a larger enclosed exhibition space was deceptively made to appear overflowing with thousands of brightly colored playpen balls; after the installation closed, the 5000 balls were distributed among the same ten day care centers (in the city of Baltimore) that the viewers of SEMILLAS had selected to receive the tents.
Although there are conceptual similarities to these earlier projects, ISLA DE SILENCIOS / ISLE OF SILENCES has stronger visual and structural links to TREINTA SECRETOS / THIRTY SECRETS (2004) and RUMBA Y SILENCIO (2000): hundreds of paper bags are employed as physical containers for each ephemeral wish, memory or question collected; materials such as rattan, string, wood and brown paper have a more naturalistic quality; and, the visible found objects and fragments often suggest a longer history, if not the archaeological. In all three of these related installations there are/(were) sealed contents unknown to all but Flores, and destined to remain both secret and silent -- until in the case of ISLA DE SILENCIOS, they are dispersed throughout the region after the exhibition. There is a mysterious, spiritual quality about these many confidences entrusted to Flores, reminiscent of the Japanese tradition of "Omikuji" (the written notes of prayers for good fortune which are tied to trees after visiting Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples at the beginning of the New Year).
The powerful poetic imagery in the words of the title "ISLA DE SILENCIOS" may bring to mind varieties of separation and loss, but the work Luis Flores is engaged in is fundamentally life affirming and optimistic: there is hopefulness in the belief of the communicative power of art across boundaries, such as when through what may seem like intuition, one can sense the emotion and appreciate the beauty of an aria without understanding the singer's Italian. Similarly, there are connections that seem somehow to survive separation and loss, communications and associations not confined to the spoken or written word, like the music and sounds one hears -- or remembers -- through the silence.
Mary Ann Crowe2
1 David Page, "Location, Identity, Place," Maryland Art Place 17th Ann. Critics' Residency Program Special Publication of Link: A Critical Journal on the Arts in Baltimore and the World #9, Spring 2003.
2 Mary Ann Crowe, "A Pilgrimage in the Art of Luis Flores, 'RUMBA Y SILENCIO: In Memory of Gerard Moylan Torruella,'" Link #6, Spring 2001.