Upon walking into Ambrosino, a small North Miami gallery, the raspy-yet-sweet voice of a woman calls out and asks, “Do you like me?” It comes from a bespectacled wrinkled face in a television set with a black cloak draped over it, giving the illusion that there is a person in the room.
The work, a DVD continuous loop by Lou Anne Colodny called “I like U,” is one of sixteen pieces on view at the space’s new exhibit, It’s Hard to Figure.

The woman looks at you so intently from behind the thick-rimmed glasses that it’s hard to tear away and peruse the rest of the exhibit. Just when you think you can escape, she beckons in a whiny, childish voice, “Don’t look away, don’t look away.” The haunting face keeps you there until the loop ends.

When you’re finally free to wander, the first piece that catches your eye is Paul Mullins’ oil on wood, “Championship Belt.” The painting is not your typical homage to a boxer where the subject in question is posed, dukes up, staring off into the distance. No, Mullins gives it to you straight, focusing just on a husky midriff section sporting a massive championship belt. The earthen tones and chunky paint strokes add the drama that seems to be missing from the figure itself.

What’s an exhibit dedicated to the human figure without the ineluctable sexual theme? Well, Gustavo Roman centers his work strictly around crude sex. His “Practice Makes Perfect” shows a woman, legs spread, engaging in self-gratification. But, be warned, the depiction is not the traditional sensual masturbation scene.

This one is raw and almost disturbing as the woman uses her fist for the aforementioned pleasing.

Roman doesn’t bother adding more drama to the already shocking pieces with color. His use of inky black lines on white paper could have undermined its power, but doesn’t. In fact, the lack of color seems to capitalize on the lack of intimacy of each painting.

Unlike the larger than life “Championship Belt” that doesn’t require an up-close-and-personal look, Carol K. Brown’s “Encounters” does. The series of thirty 5″ x 7″ pieces is by far the most intimate work in the exhibit.

Each acrylic-on-paper evokes such a strong sense of silence that it seems to block out the ever-present voice in Coldony’s piece. The scenes here are two or more people interacting with others and often with themselves. Each figure is intricately detailed except for facial features, left for the imagination of the viewer – a girl smoking a cigarette, two boys playing, a couple embracing…slices of ordinary life.

Jorge Pantoja picks up where Carol K. Brown leaves off and his paintings also have the same sense of tranquility of Brown’s work. Different body parts like the back of a girl’s head or the Venus de Milo-inspired “Model” are highlighted here. The latter piece, mixed media on paper, is the armless torso of a woman in the softest pink and ivory, almost invisible on the frame.

At first, it’s difficult to find the common ground in this show because of a miscellany of technique and style, but the artists, each vastly different from the other, still elucidate the multiplicity of human relationships and the visceral sensuality of our bodies. That’s compelling enough to try and pull off, isn’t it?

It’s Hard to Figure is on view at the Ambrosino Gallery, 769 NE 125th St., North Miami, with works by Carol K. Brown, Lou Anne Colodny, Paul MullinS, Jorge Pantoja, Ali Prosch and Gustavo Roman, through November 22. Call 305-891-5577 for more info.

Ambar Hernandez can be reached at