Fitzrovia’s Edel Assanti gallery naturally provides cool relief to the hustle of nearby Oxford Street, but now it’s also looking to bring the heat in the form of the first London show by Radamés ‘Juni’ Figueroa.
The Puerto Rican artist aims to ‘tropicalise’ spaces. He encourages an air of celebration and relaxation through site specific structures and readymades that transplant his spirit – and that of his Caribbean homeland – into new surrounds.
And yet, at the very start of the preview, the space doesn’t feel foreign, or balmy. Stepping into it feels curiously like walking into a London gallery, in fact. The candy- and neon-hued tropical readymades do brighten the scene, but those white walls remain very present. Until people begin engaging with the focus of the show, that is.
‘Untitled, 2015, wood’, is a simple two-tiered, sky deck that houses a bar beneath its pale platforms and rises up to meet the gallery’s skylight. It functions as a stage for talks, performances and concerts. On climbing up and sitting down to stare at the project space filling up beneath, one also has a fine view of ‘I Dream with Snakes’, Figueroa’s sole painting in the show, which acts as a window into the tropics. Suddenly we are transported to Figueroa’s home turf.
Back on the ground, the space has now been transformed by myriad attendees leaning, draping and generally spreading themselves all over, under and around the structure. The atmosphere is intoxicating.
On the upper platform a man and his tiny daughter appear as if sightseeing on holiday. Asked what she thinks of it, she gives a succinct response: ‘It’s silly’. Which is the point – thank you – it is silly, but in a wonderful, unique way. Figueroa is championing the stereotypes his structures evoke. And whenever we’re looking for an escape from the London hubbub, we now know where to head. We might even bring our swimsuits next time.