West Bottoms Gallery Highlights Latin American Artists

“Espacio Mutuo #14,” by Cuban painter Abel Massot, is part of the inaugural show, “Dialogo Figurativo/Figurative Dialogue” at the new Gallery Bogart (courtesy of the Jonathan Vargas Collection)

Over the past two decades, the once industrial and then desolate landscape of the West Bottoms has been revived by the arts community. Fridays and Saturdays are filled with bustling shopping, open studios and now a new art gallery — Gallery Bogart.

Gallery Bogart was born out of owner/operator Miller Bogart’s travels and passion for Latin American art. “It always became a point when I traveled to go to artists’ studios and connect with them,” Bogart said. “It really grew through those experiences, those stories, those connections.” One such connection was with Cuban painter Abel Massot during a visit to Havana. Bogart was immediately taken with the scope and gravity of Massot’s work.

Bogart says, “His work is just so impactful and powerful — large-scale and vibrant. I had never seen anything like it before.” Their encounter in Havana set off a chain of events that culminated in the opening of Bogart’s own gallery, with the mission of showcasing contemporary Latin American art. “Bringing in Latin American art and artists from different areas, different countries that normally wouldn’t be on view in Kansas City” is the primary focus of the gallery, according to Bogart.

The opening of Gallery Bogart Nov. 5, 2022, followed six years of work and planning, starting in 2016 when Massot and Bogart met. A few logistical hurdles were encountered including handling the sheer size of Massot’s pieces, some of which are 6 x 6 feet. Ultimately, Massot removed his pieces from their stretcher bars, rolled the canvases and had them re-stretched in Kansas City.

Gallery Bogart occupies the second floor of an old warehouse at 1400 Union Ave., up either an elongated flight of stairs or a freight elevator. At the top, white concrete walls are lined with the hulking heads and torsos of Massot’s exhibit “Dialogo Figurativo/Figurative Dialogue.” These images are unmistakably human in form and expressions, yet they are colored and styled to accentuate an underlying dissonance. The figures peer out from canvases with alternating expressions of desperation, disinterest and longing. Many of the pieces are textured with multiple layers of paint. Some have strips of paint removed to reveal a layer beneath, like a mismatched puzzle piece. Faces are layered upon faces, hands covering eyes and mouths. Ultimately, Massot’s “Dialogo Figurativo/Figurative Dialogue” is a study on humanity, rich with the complexities of isolation and connection.

The opening of Gallery Bogart also marks Massot’s first solo show in the United States. For the six years leading up to the gallery opening, Bogart was thrust into the weeds of renovation and logistics. At this moment, he sees the gallery entering its second phase. After a successful opening, he is ready to explore what the gallery will become. The focus is international artists for now, but Bogart is building relationships with local Latinx communities as well.

Abel Massot’s “Dialogo Figurativo/Figurative Dialogue” continues through Jan. 31 at Gallery Bogart, 1400 Union Ave. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment Monday through Friday. For more information, 816.739.8571 or gallerybogart.com.

Emily Spradling

Emily Spradling is an adult English-language instructor, freelance writer and founding member of the arts/advocacy organization, No Divide KC. She is particularly interested in the intersections of art, culture and LGBTQ+ issues.

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