Beyond the Fence
Beyond the Fence (2021) depicts a crumple of ambiguous and sometimes biomorphic shapes—a large spine of a plant, an entity vaguely reminiscent of a pair of jeans—before a crushed barbed wire fence and a crescent moon. Fittingly situated in between two windows and hung on a wall which faces out toward the street, the work lends its name to an exhibition of Miguel Cárdenas’s work at Chapter NY. "Beyond the Fence" alludes not only to Cárdenas’s painted characters’ relationship to architecture and topographies—they look out at or beyond; they stand upon thresholds—but also the borders between new realms, surreal and psychological.
In The Brink (2021), for instance, a creature with a long snout like a plague doctor and fuzzy, almond-shaped legs peeps out from a shadowed structure balanced precariously atop mammary mountains. Cárdenas’s non-painting works induce a similar sense of woozy otherworldliness: long-beaked woodworked Brancusi columns with sawed edges stand before a spare and scenic mural of a landscape. But somehow, the most poignant and unsettling image in this show may also be the one which is ostensibly the most familiar. In The City at Night (2021) [pictured], a dog calls out to another from across rooftops before an emptied cityscape, its loneliness and anguish palpable—a reminder that even in familiar places there may be unbreachable boundaries.
Miguel Cárdenas, The City at Night, 2021. Oil on linen, 19 ½ × 23 ½ inches. Photo by Charles Benton. Courtesy of the artist and Chapter NY, New York.