Artist Profile: Miguel Ovalle
originally published on Remezcla.
A human body draped with silver sequined textile slept on its side at the center of a room lined with photographs documenting a psychedelic celebration. ArtNowNY exhibited the remnants of an event named Glitterati, an imagining of artist Miguel Ovalle aka Dizmology. Photos at the gallery provided evidence of a party that recreated live distortions of everyday movements. Ovalle’s Greenpoint studio/living space supplied an atmosphere reminiscent of 90s clubkid warehouse raves but fashioned by an artist’s eye.
Spandex walls produced liquid partitions that allowed guests a tangible trip off the textures their bodies formed behind the fabric. Gold mylar created a mirroring effect around the rest of the space. And in a bluetron room, live projections of performers in LA, surround sound and a nice supply of party-enhancers contributed to the environment. Who were the partygoers? A select group of 40 to 50 artists, writers, curators, creators… people open to embracing a bizarre environment. Ovalle substituted party scene faces with silhouettes of sparkling texture and opalescent reflections. The photos are like the cloudy memories of a druggy hangover. Your memory of the night before is a blur of glitz and half-recognizable faces. “There’s beauty in these errors, distortions, imperfections…” Ovalle says.
Miguel Ovalle grew up in Opa-Locka, Florida, one of the more violent hoods north of Miami but had what he calls an “exit out of poverty,” which was his access to art magnet schools. Since 2nd grade Miguel commuted hours to a school out of his district to receive training in the arts. He grew up in a very religious, ultra conservative Pentecostal household and when it was time for him to fly, his family was against him going to college. They dubbed him “el pajaro loco” as he escaped on a full ride scholarship to Maryland Institute College of Art where he eventually graduated with honors.
After a stint in Tokyo where he got deported for doing illegal graffiti, he hustled his way into becoming Marc Ecko’s senior designer for the brand Ecko Red. He then worked with Victoria’s Secret PINK line doing their branding and logos for 6 years. He’s done apparel design for The Roots, Erykah Badu, Common, Lil Wayne, and MF Doom. But even though he’s made his name in the corporate world, his nights are dedicated to his personal art.
Although actual mentors were few for Miguel, his personal art is steeped in influences that range from street art, graffiti, hip hop to b boy and Japanese culture. In his show at ArtNowNY ‘Encryption,’ the street art and graffiti scene appear as important influences. Especially in his neo-futuristic architectural piece where he seems to be paying respect to the art of graffiti. Another human figure draped in a sequined cloak functioned as a kind of sacrifice laying elevated in front of his architectural tag piece. However, the sensation from the piece is not morbid. Instead it feels positive, more like an immortalization.
Miguel’s exhibits are always multi-sensory, which is what makes Miguel so interesting as an artist and why he can throw such a badass party. He understands how our conscious senses intersect. At the Encryption show, a cellist played in the corner while everyone drank their alcohol and peered into his glitch-inspired idea of the world. Intricate drawings of underwater femme fatales, architectural graffiti, dissected 3D paintings and human figure casts all populated the space showing the diverse mediums he uses to create his art. These unlikely juxtapositions are all over his work and not just in Encryption. In ‘Black Market,’ an exhibit Ovalle did with Citizen Kroger, he exhibited very taboo works -- motorcycles like orgasm machines, art that were also weapons, swords, and machine guns.
Miguel’s parents are both Dominican, raised in Williamsburg Brooklyn and the Bronx. His neighborhood growing up was a primarily Dominican and Black community. But when asked about the Latino element in his work, he says he doesn’t feel his art reflects that “Latino” thread that gets play at museums like Museo del Barrio or galleries that primarily exhibit Latino artists. He also doesn’t see his work as political; he sees it as therapeutic. The art world and institutions in general like to compartmentalize and pin people’s work as one thing or another, but Miguel’s work is hard to label. His thesis at MICA involved taking his professors to an abandoned tunnel behind a railroad track where he presented his thesis of atmospheric aerosol graffiti-- something that few if any other art students had done. But even those Latinos that fall through the cracks of art history eventually get their day.