"We are the Majestuousas Princesas." This is the artistic statement offered by the local duo known as Gismo for their section of the Besos exhibit on display at Leonard Tachmes Gallery, "If you need that translated, then tough." Cracker went home and found out from Babel Fish that it translates as "Majestic Princesses,” pretty obvious in retrospect.
Leonard Tachmes Gallery is a bit north of Wynwood in an aged, yellow house. Let’s say you missed the gallery’s sign and walked directly into Gismo's installation: if you weren’t Cuban, you'd find yourself wondering if this was a real, honest to God Cuban-American living room. Gasp. There's a gold-plated fireplace with tacky, miniature statues, a couch covered in plastic, a few references to Jesus and followers and a dash of Cuban folk art. Gazing blankly - almost woozily - at the numerous photos on the wall, the realization would slowly form that these photos are off-kilter and bizarre. Not enough to induce Texas Chainsaw paranoia, and, sure, they're pretty humorous as well, but in normal circumstances, these aren't the portraits a family, Cuban, white or African, would choose for heritage décor - in fact, context running, these pictures shouldn’t really be shared with anyone, let alone framed in more faux-gold so as to welcome guests and put friends at ease. That said, even conservative Miamians are less shy these days with displaying their private, uninhibited sides to anyone who wants, or mistakenly looks.
Remaining in this imaginary hypothetical (though Miami has a consistent ratio of people cluelessly entering places) a desire exists to leave with a touristy snapshot of your stunned face right when you connected the dots that this was some quirky ass, old Cuban lady’s house. Really, who crassly puts a picture in their living room of a girl screaming in aggravation over having to pick up dog shit, or females wearing way tight, satin dresses proudly drinking at a classy bar?
Of course, a young woman softly enters, and rather than interrogating you with, "What the fuck are you doing in my Abuela's house?” she says, "Hello! How are you? Welcome to the gallery."
Gismo are Jessica Gispert and Crystal Molinary, two young Miami-native-and-raised ruckus raisers who currently attend FIU. They sassily satirize, and arguably fully embrace, the trashy, fun culture they were, and continue to be, immersed in. For the most part, their execution lies in doing the Cindy Sherman type thing of dressing up and snapping lots of photographs of themselves. And there’s shared similarity with the Untitled Film Stills series, kinda, where Gismo replaces female stereotypes in traditional American cinema with ousting the stereotypes clinging to their spoiled, Cuban American Princess peers. Top priority for Gismo seems to be the achievement of laughter with their art. Absent at the core is any cynically creative cannibalism, but even when tailoring the tackling of stereotypes for the very ones who are affronted, as their work seems to accomplish, the fresh novelty of stepping on eggshells remains. Miamians will see what they will in this, and I’d be curious to know how their work plays out in Basel, Switzerland. I mean, the aforementioned shit-picking-up picture no doubt rests warmly and uncomfortably in any viewer’s mind for a while.
The word “Cuban” has been used a hundred times so far, and perhaps the Ladies Gismo thought they were doing a showcase specifically designed for the next generations of Cuban-Americans and if you fail to get it "then tough,” but much like “Majestousas Princesas” it's not hard to crack. Maybe a few specific items in the installation will go over a paler head, but the timeless immigrant caution tale is pretty much crystal: Your elders came here and if they worked hard enough and hit luck, their great-grand kids were able to become members of a spoiled, suburban royalty – real, typical, ugly Americans who spend money at ostentatious shops and celebrate shit grand parents are quietly ashamed of.
Gismo’s works in the exhibit, Besos, are on display until May 8 at Leonard Tachmes Gallery, 3930 NW 2hu8nd Ave., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday thru Saturday or by appointment. 305 572 9015.