Juan Betancurth: Domesticus

The Abrons Arts Center is proud to present Domesticus, a solo show by Colombian artist Juan Betancurth in the Charles E. Culpeper Gallery. Expanding upon his investigations of personal environments and family dynamics the artist’s most recent work traces a dark parallel between domestic life and domestication. Betancurth has created an installation that triggers an uncomfortable relationship with everyday activity situated in the kitchen, articulating a process wherein we enclose ourselves into a built habitat.

Domesticus is curated by Adrian Geraldo Saldaña and part of the series Prized Vernacular, a platform for three exhibitions opening concurrently at the Abrons Arts Center that deconstruct a vernacular “everyday.” In light of the global economic recession, ordinary objects are presented as radicalized — prisms to a common unequally shared or realized. Reflecting cultural and economic difference, Prized Vernacular investigates this “new normal.”

Betancurth’s manipulation of object and space proposes dichotomies between the experience of possession and submission, domesticity and savagery, pain and pleasure, all negotiated within the first environment where power and control dynamics are learned — the home. The installation constructs a visit to an abandoned housewares store, offering morbid and erotic solutions to a consumer’s desire for subjugation and entrapment. Draped curtains instigate audience participation, heightening curiosity and the desire to touch, while his strategic use of mirrors implicates the viewer’s wanton gaze.

He willfully references design while articulating a narrative greater than the sum of its parts, a showcase of reconstructed kitchen objects. Doing so, the conventions of home life have shifted ominously — kitchenware into weapons and tools for punishment; daily domestic actions into submissive behavior. Their practical use is subverted, heightening their masochistic potential.

Domesticus also presents a familial discourse, confronting the artist’s family members with his own sublimated impulses to assume the role of housewife and reflecting on the domesticating practices in the house he grew up in. His own mother has been obliged to stand as a model for his surreptitious interventions, simultaneously satisfying a vengeful impulse and a fantasy of togetherness.

Juan Betancurth blurs dreamlife, memory and the present through sculpture, installation and performance. He creates installations to frame his performance work and draws upon poetry, witchcraft, religious rites and domestic routines to both re-configure roles within family and offer a place of community to participants. Born in Manizales, Colombia, he now resides in Brooklyn, New York. Visit the artist’s website.