KNIGHT ARTS FOUNDATION on LAWRENCE GIPE @ PRIMARY

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Words by Anne Tschida

Although Primary Projects has become known for street art since it opened two years ago in the Design District, the latest show there is a departure, although still remaining within a thematic that fits with the artist-run space.

The work — painting and video — revolves around a still extremely controversial site in Spain, which has its roots in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. That devastating upheaval pitted the growing powers and ideologies of the era against each other, previewing the cataclysmic World War II. The artist and University of Arizona professor Lawrence Gipe visually dives into the history of Santa Cruz e la Valle de los Caidos, the huge (and some would say monstrous) cathedral built by the Fascist general who ruled Spain for decades, Francisco Franco. The 500-foot-high stone cross that sits above it is the largest in the world; and the generalissimo is entombed under it. Gipe’s paintings and images reference the power-obssessed realism favored by both sides of the totalitarian extremes of the time, the Fascists and the Communists.

After Franco’s fall, the cathedral became a pilgrimage site of sorts, attracting both left and right demonstrators. In 2010, renovations began on the enormous Piéta sculpture that towers over people visiting the basilica, according to the gallery. “At one point, the face of Mary was removed and encaged with a scaffold — Gipe uses this disturbing and striking image as one of the subjects in his tapestry-like paintings.” Heady stuff. And street art in its own way.

Gipe’s work will be some of the tons of artwork behind open doors for May’s Second Saturday art walk. Also in the Design District, for instance, new works in the new spaces of Knight Arts Challenge granteesLocust Projects and Dimensions Variable will be unveiled. And another Knight grantee, Tigertail Productions, will throw its art- and performance- heavy fundraiser at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium from 8 until 11 p.m. Slowing down doesn’t seem to be in Miami’s cultural genes these days.

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