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Bronx Artists Imagine a World Without Words in New Show

By Patrick Wall | January 28, 2013 7:04am

CLAREMONT — Descending a few stairs from a quiet sidewalk along 173rd Street into the basement gallery of The X Collective opens up a vision of life after the apocalypse.

There, dim construction lights lead to a dark room, its walls pasted with pages from a ravaged Bible, where a cryptic pictograph suggests a language beyond the alphabet.

Then, step into the light of another room and see that visual code repeated in full-size photographs and paintings — a “New Word Order,” which is the theme and title of the five-member collective’s latest show.

“Last year was a hard year for a lot of people,” said artist Charly Joaquin Dominguez, who suggested that was one reason many people were morbidly intrigued by talk of a Mayan prediction that the world would end in December.

The show asks, what if it had?

“We’re the survivors,” said Dominguez, 24. “So where do we go from here?”

The pictograph in the first room contains 26 impressionistic images, each corresponding to a letter of the alphabet — perhaps a new way to express thoughts and feelings in a world without words.

In the second room, those images are revealed to be zoomed in photographs of the art on display, which range from scenes of despair to glimpses of paradise.

There is Dominguez’s painting, “Spirit Suicide,” in which the tears of a tortured soul seep into the soil and water a mystical tree.

Then there is a photograph, by Marcos Cruz, of a wooden staircase leading down to a beach in San Diego — “complete tranquility,” as Cruz remembers it.

“There is a heaven on Earth,” explained Cruz, 24. “But you have to find it.”

Part of the show’s purpose is to address English illiteracy in The Bronx, where about a third of residents are foreign-born and speak English as a second language.

Another X Collective artist, Arismendy Feliz, 29, saw these stats come to life when he worked as a parent coordinator in a Bronx school, where he sometimes tried alternative means of connecting with families.

“We found that the most common way to communicate was through pictures,” he said.

The X Collective’s gallery sits in the basement of 221 East 173rd St., the building where Feliz lives and helped organize his fellow residents to form a coop about a decade ago.

When Feliz formed The X Collective with a handful of other Bronx artists about two years ago, the coop donated the basement as a workspace and gallery for the group.

This is the collective’s fifth group show, which also features work by Brittany Maldonado and Irinel De Leon. Eventually, each member will present an individual exhibition in the gallery.

It continues the group’s effort to tell Bronx stories, both theirs and others, said Feliz.

“We live in a culture where if you’re going to tell your story, it has to be a success story — or a victim” story, he said. “We just want a space where people can tell the truth.”

The show runs through Feb. 8.