Nayda Collazo-Llorens: Navigable Zones
by Laura Roulet
Companion essay to the exhibition Navigable Zones
Project 4, Washington DC, 2007
Navigate: v. 1. To find a way through a place, or direct the course of something, especially a ship or aircraft, using a route-finding system. 2. vt. To follow a correct or satisfactory course along a route. 3. vt. To have responsibility for keeping a car on the right route, for example, by following a map and giving the driver instructions. 4. vt. To find a way to a place, usually with difficulty. Zone: n. 1. An area regarded as separate or kept separate, especially one with a particular use or function. 2. One of the smaller, usually named or numbered sections that a particular area is divided into. 3. One of five horizontal bands across the earth’s surface, separated by the Arctic Circle, the Tropic of Cancer, the Tropic of Capricorn, and the Antarctic Circle, that marks climates. 4. A time zone. 5. An area with characteristic types of organisms determined largely by its environment. 6. A unit of rock formation characterized by its fossil content. 7. The portion of a sphere included between two parallel planes meeting the sphere, one of which may be tangent to the sphere or both of which may intersect it; vt. 1. To divide up an area into zones. 2. To declare officially that an area is to be used for a particular purpose or to be developed in a particular way.
With Navigable Zones, Nayda Collazo-Llorens hyper-links the gallery zone thorough a multi-media installation, open for the viewer to navigate. Paintings, drawings, text and video combine in interconnected systems to form a non-linear “mindscape” Employing repetition, variation and mapping, Collazo-Llorens explores the mind’s internal systems. How is one’s external environment perceived, ordered and remembered? Reflecting her dual-cultural existence, themes of displacement, navigation and language are prevalent.
Born in the tropical zone of Puerto Rico, Collazo-Llorens has learned to navigate a dual-cultural, bilingual way of life. Accessing the island requires an air or sea route. Humans follow the same pathways of hurricanes, an arc along the east coast of the United States. Like migratory birds, Puerto Ricans freely traverse the guagua aerea (air bus) route between San Juan and New York, the two culture capitals. Yet, in between, lie the three points of the Bermuda Triangle, a pitfall, a myth, a mystery. The passage is not always so free or easy.
The series of drawings have a diaristic intimacy and chronology, which is rearranged in the grid presentation. All are sequentially numbered by date and time of completion. Both Spanish and English words appear, reflecting her bilingual thought process, as well as an internal/external dichotomy: Thinking and dreaming in Spanish, while communicating in English for the outside, New York world. Her drawings also reflect an interest in private, invented language; how mark making crosses over between letters, symbols and abstraction. An example is the circle, used to express highlighting in text, accentuation, the exclamation “oh!,” the letter “O” or zero, nothing.
Collazo-Llorens’s paintings reveal a post-minimalist aesthetic, with the systematic organization of Hanne Darboven or Eva Hesse, and the calligraphic mark making and erasures of Cy Twombly or Brice Marden. Rorschach-like ink drops mark the canvases in a grid pattern. Connections among the dots are then mapped and delineated, gradually building up a surface that is both organic and systematized. These coordinates are echoed in the linear patterns marked on the walls, like the instructions of a dress pattern or a chart.
The video Roaming gives the viewer a more direct experience of moving through space, bringing in the component of time. Each element of the installation enhances the central question: how do we make our way through the world? By mapping and zoning our environment; by creating narratives; by ordering and naming; by striking a path. At times autobiographical, this work answers with an evocative hybrid of science and poetry.