The Art of Outer Space

June 18, 2014  •  2 minute read

A Visual Artist Residency in San Jose

Image of Vargas Suarez-Universal painting mural on the exterior of MACLA.  photo by Melina Ramirez

Image of Vargas Suarez-Universal painting mural on the exterior of MACLA (photo by Melina Ramirez)

MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana is presenting COSMOS CODEX, a commissioned, site-specific work by the artist Vargas-Suarez UNIVERSAL, May 2 – August 2, 2014.  This is MACLA’s first art exhibition dedicated to the relationship among art, astronomy and space research. This is also the artist’s first solo show in California, and the first time he has publicly exhibited sculptural objects. Vargas-Suarez UNIVERSAL, who also goes by VSU, is primarily known for large-scale murals, paintings, drawings, and sound recordings. He sources American and Russian spaceflight programs, astronomy, and aerospace architecture to create commissioned and public artworks for museums, galleries, private and public spaces. A major aspect of the exhibition is VSU’s dialogue with scientists and other experts at the NASA Ames Research Center, located in Silicon Valley, to gather information directly informing the artwork. Vargas-Suarez is exploring concepts for retrieving materials from Mars, asteroids and other orbiting bodies in our solar system, with the intention of allowing artists, architects and designers access to these materials to expand and explore possibilities that not available to them with traditional materials available here on Earth. The exhibition installation in MACLA’s gallery is set up as a mock “clean room,” or spacecraft processing facility, typically found at NASA operations centers. The installation will include hand-intervened new digital prints, murals, paintings, sculptural objects, and a video produced in collaboration with artist Barbora Bereznakova. MACLA, positioned in Silicon Valley – a fertile area for art, science, and innovation – is the ideal setting for COSMOS CODEX. San José, in particular, is a place where artists, scientists, thinkers, and other creative minds can find ways in which science can inform art and vice-versa. This is an opportunity for both disciplines to come together to create unique projects that engage a broad community of artists, scientists, students, and others to discuss questions that both art and science ask: What is our place in the universe? How do we conceptualize, idealize, or represent our position here? How can art present scientific data in compelling ways, and how can science be a source of inspiration for artists? Further, this exhibition presents an exciting educational opportunity for the hundreds of middle school and high school-aged students that MACLA serves every year. MACLA hopes that the exhibition and the artist’s residency will encourage their students to engage with art and science in a different and meaningful way. VSU, who studied both astronomy and art history in college, and himself has been inspired by the data collected by space/research entities, including NASA, is an inspiration for Latino youth who may be considering studies and careers in the arts and sciences. Vargas-Suarez UNIVERSAL is based in New York. He was born in Mexico City and raised in the Houston suburb of Clear Lake City adjacent to the NASA Johnson Space Center. He studied astronomy and art history at the University of Texas at Austin and moved to New York City in 1997. MACLA and Vargas-Suarez UNIVERSAL thank the NASA Ames Research Center for its support.