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At A R E A, it’s transparency and reflection

“White House,” from the Lidzie Alvisa and Donis Llago’s show “Transparent?”at A R E A.
A R E A
“White House,” from the Lidzie Alvisa and Donis Llago’s show “Transparent?”at A R E A.

Lidzie Alvisa and Donis Llago’s show “Transparent?” at A R E A challenges the secrets, lies, and obfuscations of the powerful. We can take the title’s question mark as a sardonic retort to campaign promises of thorough disclosure.

But let’s not kid ourselves. We all have secrets. The workings of every institution, indeed every relationship, are filled with shadows. This is something Alvisa, an installation artist, and Llago, a painter, know — they are a couple. That question mark acknowledges just how slippery transparency is. 

They don’t often exhibit together, but Alvisa’s work here strengthens and deepens in the presence of Llago’s, and vice versa.

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Llago’s commanding paintings portray seats of power as glass houses. Imagine: a completely see-through White House. He also depicts the Kremlin, and, because these artists are Cuban and Cuba is uniquely positioned between the White House and the Kremlin, Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución. 

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These indictments of deception are also superb paintings. Llago layers grays and whites to fashion extraordinarily detailed images: the hard lines of the neoclassical White House, the byzantine curves and ornamentation of the Kremlin, the midcentury-modernist tower on the Plaza de la Revolución. 

Each is painted above a reflecting pool, which turns the idea of transparency on its head. Glass and water can be transparent but also reflective. We don’t see through mirrors: We see ourselves. 

Enter Alvisa, here working with mirrors. Each of her pieces confronts and encompasses the viewer and everything else in the gallery. “EGO” spells that word out in bristling pins on the mirror’s surface — letters that, upon reflection, flesh into volume. Look out: Consciousness is so much bigger than the prickly little self.

Alvisa has a piece positioned amid Llago’s three building paintings, called “Ellipsis.” Dots made of pins trail along this mirror in a kind of opening. The men in power are not serving us well, it seems to say. What are you going to do? Take a moment to reflect before you act.

TRANSPARENT? LIDZIE ALVISA & DONIS LLAGO

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At A R E A, 460 Harrison Ave., through June 23. 857-209-1321, www.area.gallery

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.