Bronx Art Group to Explore the Borough's Vices in New Show

By Patrick Wall on March 21, 2012 2:17pm 

Ari Feliz, a member of The X Collective, will present a self-portrait of himself as Hermes in the group's new show,
Ari Feliz, a member of The X Collective, will present a self-portrait of himself as Hermes in the group's new show, "What's Your Vice?"
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DNAinfo/Patrick Wall

CLAREMONT — This Friday evening, a group of Bronxites will convene in a shadowy basement to reveal their darkest tendencies: compulsive shopping, self-medicating, an obsession with beauty.

The meeting isn’t some sort of underground support group — it’s the opening of the latest multimedia art exhibit by Bronx-based The X Collective, titled, “What’s Your Vice?

The show, a mashup of photographs, installations and live models, will feature the work of the collective’s six members and will touch on such vices as vanity, drug use and sex addiction.

“We’re trying to bring an awareness of the issues that Bronx residents face,” said Ari Feliz, the show’s lead organizer, who helped house the event in the basement of the co-op on East 173rd Street where he is a board member.

Feliz, 28, used to earn his living as a social worker in Harlem, but became frustrated with battling the same problems the same way day after day. Last May, he decided to quit his job and commit full-time to making art that could propose creative solutions to such ills as HIV and drug addiction.

Before long, he had gathered together a small group of Bronx artists who met in the co-op space, which the board gave Feliz permission to use for his art.

The group soon frayed, but Feliz and one other artist remained and organized their first show, “4 Play: You and the MTA,” in November. That event drew the attention of several other artists who, as The X Collective, began to plot a new show.

The idea for the latest exhibit started with talk about borough-wide bad habits, especially drug use, but quickly became more personal.

“The more we started focusing on this, we started seeing vices in ourselves,” said Vanezza Cruz, a graphic designer whose contribution to the show confronts her own addiction to shopping.

Cruz, 32, called the habit a “soothing mechanism” she learned from her mother, which leaves her dresser strewn with mounds of cheap jewelry and her closest filled with bags of clothes that she doesn’t want her boyfriend to know she bought.

“It’s so pervasive in the culture,” of the Bronx, Cruz said, “but no one talks about it.”

Irinel De Leon will show photos of Bronx hair salons, along with mannequin heads, to comment on notions of beauty in the borough's Latina community, which De Leon said often restrict women.

“Growing up Dominican, you’re taught to look a certain way,” said De Leon, 23. “You almost lose your own identity in the process.”

She should know: she has worked as a hair stylist in Westchester for the past six years.

“Beauty is kind of my vice — and I’m a provider of that vice as well,” De Leon said.

A live-action “futuristic cruising app” by Charly Dominguez, will combine photographs, paintings and live models to present a vision of a safer, healthier gay hook-up culture in the future.

Artist Brittany Maldonado will explore lesbian sex and body-image issues and Marcos Cruz will depict the process of buying and using marijuana.

Feliz, who is HIV-positive, will display a large portrait of himself in the guise of the god Hermes, with exposed heart and veins, that is part of a series tracing his past struggles with self-medication and his eventual decision not to take prescription drugs to treat his infection.

The exhibit, Feliz said, is meant to provoke visitors to consider the Bronx’s vices, but also its vibrant arts community.

“We want to be a hub,” said Feliz. “We don’t want people to think that they have to go to Chelsea to see a gallery.”

The show’s opening reception at 221 E. 173rd Street begins this Friday, March 23, at 7 p.m. and will offer visitors a “liquid vice," in the form of wine. Viewing hours for the show’s subsequent three-week run will soon be posted on The X Collective website and Facebook page.

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