Esther Gatón at Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M)

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Dangling at the center of Esther Gatón’s exhibition “Emil Lime” is a life-size boat, suspended by wire cables from a hole in the ceiling. The 2023 sculpture, which shares the show’s palindromic title, consists of bound bamboo reeds woven through a large brushed-metal hull and decorated with paint, glitter, stickers, and rubber animal toys. A Technicolor swath of “vegan bioplastic,” singed with a lighter and dyed with natural pigments evoking moss, mold, lichen, and fungi, hangs from the midsection like a downed and tattered mainsail. Hidden in the ceiling, a small motor causes the ship to periodically lurch and shudder, as if running aground.

The wall text compares the boat’s movement with that of a mechanical bull, a gondola, or a pendulum—yet none of these quite match the meek, sputtering pathos of Gatón’s motorized dinghy. Its movement is more like that of a glitch or a video-rendering error. That deliberate confusion of the real and virtual extends to a series of four untitled collages (all 2022) hung on the surrounding walls. These small, chaotic compositions blend and blur photographic and digitally rendered material (street snapshots, watermarked Web images, work-in-progress photos from Gatón’s studio) to form primordial studies of texture: glistening glass, oozing slime, roiling magma.

With its pastel-infused Waterworld aesthetic, and the attendant implications of a makeshift ark, “Emil Lime” drifts toward a sense of looming apocalypse. But there is a playfulness and an unironic curiosity in Gatón’s work that seems bent on transforming errant junk into a life raft, however scrappy or unfit for the flood.

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