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La vida LaCa 

New Latin American gallery opens in Charlotte

As Charlotte's Latin American community continues to grow, it seems only fitting that its culture should similarly expand and thrive in this city. That's where The Latin American Contemporary Art Projects comes in. The gallery, opening on Thursday, March 21, will showcase works by Latin American artists who live and work both here and abroad.

Though smaller galleries like NoDa's Pura Vida Worldly Art, owned by Mexico native Teresa Hernandez, and the now defunct Gil Gallery, operated by Colombian artist Edwin Gil, have highlighted Latin American art and related projects, the LaCa will be the first Queen City gallery solely devoted to it. But the owner, an Argentinian and longtime Charlotte resident who wishes to remain anonymous until the opening night reception, plans for it to be much more than just a gallery.

"His vision includes expanding into artist studios where the public can meet the artists and learn more about not only Latin American art, but the culture behind Latin America," says Neely Verano, the director of LaCa Projects. "We really do want it to be a resource for the community, as opposed to just a gallery where we're trying to sell art. It's really about promotion and advocacy for Latin America."

In time, the folks at LaCa hope to offer more than exhibits by also including various programs, hosting cultural nights, partnering with universities and museums, and adding a coffee and dining concept to the venue.

The gallery's first exhibit, poetics of erratic materialism, will feature contemporary artwork by the Buenos Aires-based artist Juan Dolhare. Dolhare, a professor at Buenos Aires University and an artist who has been painting for 10 years with pieces scattered in collections across the globe, has created a series of 15 large-scale oil paintings on canvas for the LaCa show. This is his first Charlotte-area exhibit since a 2007 exhibit at the now-closed venue The Gallery at the Shop. His next project in the U.S. will be included as part of a group exhibition, slated for 2014 in NYC.

Through smooth colors, striking symbols and everyday objects, Dolhare draws a populist narrative that expounds on political, philosophical and religious elements. "I would say that what I do is pop surrealist painting," he notes.

Dolhare will be in attendance at the reception for the gallery, a former distribution warehouse with a total of 15,000 square feet (4,000 of which is gallery space), located in West Charlotte's FreeMoreWest neighborhood.

"This was a part of town that was sort of perfect for this type of concept because there's a revitalization effort going on," says Verano. "I think the owner really feels that we can contribute to this area in a meaningful way and maybe turn it into a mini-NoDa, if you will. We hope that having an art gallery at this end of town, which really doesn't get a lot of foot traffic in the evening, will help to change some of that."

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