Miami artist Adler Guerrier’s sense of place

Haitian-born Miami artist Adler Guerrier creates multidisciplinary art that prods viewers to examine their surroundings, with Miami as his backdrop and his muse. The layers in his work – the layered identity of the urban environment – speak to how we can be multiple people from many places.  

His artwork has been exhibited locally at the Pérez Art Museum, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the Bass Museum of Art, the public collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, among others. It’s also in the public collection of the Studio Museum in New York.

On Feb 5., Adler will reveal a new piece created specifically for Commissioner, a subscription program that helps local collectors learn more about art and build their collection. You can learn more about the program here.

Although the event isn’t open to public, you can still check out Adler’s work at David Castillo Gallery or arrange for a studio visit at Bakehouse Art Complex

We caught up with Adler to ask him more about his art and his technique.

You were born in Port Au Prince, Haiti. How does your background inform your work?

I was born in the tropics and I live in the subtropics and there’s an aspect of the Caribbean that informs an understanding of bodies, of landscape, history, colonialism, and the dominance of America in the 20th century. All of those things have influenced my work. It is the sort of a historical texts that help inform how I frame today, the present.

You work with different materials and use different techniques. What is it about collage that is particularly appealing?

Collage lends itself to understanding the makeup of the world. It references a narration of how things come to be, from cities to houses to yards or even what happens to be on the table in front of you. There’s a particular arrangement that can be read within a collage. There’s an element of chance in how things happen to be next to each other. That’s something wonderful. As much as we can plan and arrange a lot of things, some things feel more serendipitous. And collage often holds that sort of freshness in the way it depicts an image or conversation.

What kinds of responses do you hope to elicit with your work?

My works are meditations on what is it to live in a place. To be conscious that the place you are in is the site of the setting for your life. I’m creating images and works that want to elicit a more conscious and active participation in the spaces that one is in. Within the works, I often visit and revisit familiar places to me, places that I’ve probably seen hundreds of time. Part of the exercise is trying to find a kind of a renewal within these places, through framing and layering and techniques of adjacency. That’s what I would hope a viewer can get not only from the work but hopefully apply to their own lives and the places that they live. If the place that you’re in doesn’t have the qualities that you want, maybe you can physically change it. Maybe the aroma of that little nook area of your house needs a jasmine or gardenia to give a sweet smell or maybe you need to trim that bush so that light filters through. There is an opportunity to participate in making a space that makes us better.

What role does Miami play in your work and what are the stories you want to tell here?

Well, I live here in Miami and most of my work is staged here. A good part of my practice uses photography. I want to document the place that I am in at a very specific moment. I tend to use the same images for other ends that are more imaginary, but I want to anchor my practice to Miami. It’s a fascinating place. The stories I’m interested in telling here are ones of a place becoming more useful or more poetic — unmoored from daily struggles and mediocracy. What makes Miami great also invites some bad things. It’s not any different than anywhere on the planet for that matter, but still requires a kind of sorting, in order to make it great for individuals and for the community at large.

What are the questions you explore with your work?

The questions relate to notions of temporal ideas. Where did we come from? What does today hold? What can tomorrow offer us? How can I be better? Or how can I be a better human? The recurring questions are based on my humanity. In a way it’s based on me being a subject in this world, more than a citizen, a father, a son, a husband. But it’s about all of it.

What is it like being an artist in Miami?

Miami is an interesting place to work. Miami needs artists. It need art and culture. And I’m not talking about Art Basel or how art is written about in press releases. I quite literally want to talk about an imagining of tomorrow or imagining how to make this place better. Its embrace of Latin culture, Cuban music, Cuban food, became synonymous with the city at a moment when the city doubled in population. This is who we are. It feels right and native at this point. I think Miami’s next moment will equally be filled with a kind of a cultural embrace. So yeah, it is a good place to work and it’s a good place where artists can contribute to that future moment.

Learn more about Adler in this video.

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