Half biologist, half street artist, all gentleman. The French painter Youri Cansell AKA Mantra opens his very first US solo show tonight at Goldman Global Arts (GGA) in Miami. In preparation for “Metamorphōsis,” the artist has been painting non-stop all summer at a temporary studio in Cancun.
The 15 or so canvasses are gathered comfortably against a fresh seafoam green interior, nestled among large leafy installations by curator Peter Tunney, who finds a fine balance in his quest for creating a complementary environmental context in the space. Anchored at one end of the gallery by a full-wall spread photographic print (by Ryan Lynch), guests gain some sense of scale for the places Mantra has traveled in search of this species – in this case, an Ecuadorian forest preserve that the artist has traveled many times to in search of the blue morpho butterfly.
He found one and he has the pictures and paintings to prove it – two as the pristine collector’s presentation in shadow boxes, one in his new direction of presenting the Lepidopteran world – in their natural habitats of wood and leaves.
The precisely detailed, hued, textured, and shimmering beauties are evocative of autumn art-show glamour – all clad in satin and furs and bubbling golden champagne. Fashion may clearly not be Mantra’s intent here, but how can you not see these gorgeous beauties this way – a soiree of international stunners arriving single and with crew in tow; against this wall is his Costa Rican Collection – hanging directly across the room from his Mexican Ensemble.
Precursors to the butterfly, three moths are repping as well and in stunning detail. One’s massive wing-span is as large as yours – fingertip to fingertip – its textures and patterning subtle and luxurious tone-on-tone beige. Precise and accurate, any entomologist who sees this show will approve of Mantra’s depictions, and most likely they’ll marvel as well.
A departure from the pop-inspired, graphical, or wild-styled, Mantra’s studious realism is a far cry from what street art fans may associate with ‘the scene’. However, his teenage escapades on French city streets with aerosol-can-in-hand under cover of the night are exactly what brought him to this point. His professional ‘tag’ is to bear witness to realities of the natural world, and that can earn you just as much street cred in some circles as all species are increasingly under temporary and permanent threat.
We plan to ask him more tonight when BSA interviews Mantra here live for his official US debut.
Hope you can fly in.
Mantra: “Metamorphōsis”. Open to the public at Goldman Global Arts Gallery. Wynwood, Miami. Click HERE for details.