The Mechanics of the Circumstances and the Secret Language of the Inanimate
For over a decade, Jefreid Lotti (Havana, Cuba, 1989) has been obsessed with interiors, depicting with generous strokes of oil on texturized canvas or handmade paper a blue-collar multiverse of humble rooms packed with personal objects, appliances, artifacts, machinery, remnants of life-infused history and energy. Whether it is a Kendall efficiency or his uncle's auto repair shop—where he found a temporary full-time managing job in 2020 after he had to interrupt his residency at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay and move back to Miami during the worst of the pandemic outbreak, when only "essential business" remained opened—Lotti crops details, collects snapshots, documenting in his visual diary those eerie paused scenes, such as a house abandoned in a hurry during work hours, or a mechanic shop after hours or during a break, unraveling the mesmerizing details of their non-so ordinary life. His is the story of an artist who has always overcome circumstances using them as an incentive and commodity. Being an impetuous colorist who plays with shapes and textures, Lotti has a curious wandering eye, also haunted by the mechanics of the things, the way they work or happens from a reflexive autobiographical POV, which is the very spirit underlying “Mechanics,” a selection of nineteen paintings from his series Essential Work, produced during the last two years, exhibiting in the Frank Lynn Gallery of the Museum of Coral Gables from May 6th, 2022-August 23rd, 2002. There is a suburban domestic intimism, a sort of chaotic balance in Lotti’s compositions, a ramshackle universe almost ready to collapse, in which the human imprint is as eloquent as its absence. In those uninhabited interiors where the trace of human chores is instrumental, as if we were dragged into a crime scene, Lotti represents the omniscience, the witness, the culprit, the scapegoat, and the alibi. All in one. The singular aesthetic ‘mechanism’ that he has developed to express his inner nature, precarious balance, resilience, and despair through his material surroundings might be enough to label his artwork as inscapes, for he attributes the inanimate force, matter, and (e)motion of the living being.
What he calls "observational paintings" are, in a more profound sense, a series of powerful, intimate essays on "becoming resilient through challenges and isolation,” as much as they are visual studies “about cars and formalism,” as he explains; for his empirical approach come along with a natural subversion of the symbols used. As Ricardo Pau-Llosa notably remarked a decade ago, in his profusely symbolistic artwork disguised as observational, all the elements are in constant “rebellion of signified against the signifier," bringing us “into an arena of the unconscious where symbols do battle with their alleged meanings.” As much as his themes are indebted to his personal experiences, the circumstances impact his painting technique. For example, using the shop as a makeshift workshop after hours, from 5:00 to 8:00 pm, contributed to aesthetic decisions such as turning the workshop into the subject of the series, using the white canvas, or the color straight from the tube. Inspired by the impressionist works of Seurat, Monet, and the sorts, Lotti played with the idea of the artists turned into essential workers in a mechanic shop during a global pandemic. Lotti’s series addresses the latent debate about the arts as a work of trivial or paramount importance for the human being and the expandability of the artist whose primary means of subsistence is not in many cases considered essential despite the uttermost impact of the arts in the human existence. Watching the gears and lifting equipment in some of the works of “Mechanics,” mainly those in which the engine cranes play a prominent role, as if we were attending an open-heart surgery in a sort of unfinished anatomy lesson, we realize that what it is essential to the art is not just to bear witness to reality, but to preserve the empathy about themes and circumstances that will fade with the ages. In a more figurative sense, the "Mechanics" are also machinations, mental arabesques of a time the artist spends repairing his—and our—own life.
Joaquin Badajoz, Manhattan, May 4th, 2022.