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A R E A gallery pushes boundaries of the white cube

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO

A R E A, Boston’s newest gallery, radiates an intimate, homey warmth, largely due to the fact that it’s located in co-founder Aynel David Guerra’s apartment. When Guerra and partner Jessica Jama-Nussenbaum developed the space, they wanted to create a less sterile experience than the typical white cube setup. Guerra hosts groups of scheduled visitors in the space on the weekends for what feel more like parties than curatorial tours. Glasses of wine in hand, guests mingle, learn about the artists from Guerra, and discuss the work at hand. “I wanted a space where people could connect with each other,” says Guerra.

Located on the border of Roxbury and the South End, the gallery looks to expand artwork beyond the trendy SoWa haven. “We’d like to support a community that doesn’t see art often,” says Guerra. A R E A is based on collaboration. In addition to hosting viewings of the current show, the gallery will feature events like concerts, performances and parties. In January a group of Boston Ballet dancers are taking over the space for a one-of-a-kind presentation. In this way, Guerra and Jama-Nussenbaum are making arts accessible to all audiences, without the barrier of high ticket prices.

Shattered myths

The current exhibition, “El Yuma,” features a roster of Cuban artists depicting their idea of American life. A Cuban native, Guerra wanted to represent this volatile and crucial period of change in Cuban-American relations. The works are a mix of sculpture, painting, video and mixed-media, and many of the artists have never been to the U.S.

Ángel Ricardo Ríos created two piñatas of Mickey and Minnie Mouse with cold, blackened faces. They’re displayed with a video of Mexican children wildly beating two similar piñatas. “It’s an invitation to witness the assassination of an American symbol,” says Guerra. The display is violent and jarring, particularly to an audience who is used to seeing these characters as wholesome, albeit consumerist, symbols of American culture.

While Ríos works on a broad scale, Mari Claudia Garcia created an art piece from a very personal place. She conducted interviews with all of her family members, from youngest to oldest, and created a video piece around their answers. Subtitles run underneath nonspeaking shots of each relative. “This piece really touches me because my family is still in Cuba,” says Guerra. “What they know about the U.S. comes from what I tell them.” After hearing their different views on the United States, viewers are encouraged to write a postcard to one or multiple of the family members. The postcards will be sent to the family in Cuba to create a dialogue between the two spaces.

Boston’s small size allows the art scene the opportunity to forgo competition and to instead focus on community. That’s exactly what Guerra and Jama-Nussenbaum’s bold, bonding experiment achieves. “This is not a place for awkwardness,” says Guerra. “Have some wine. This is your home too.”