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CULT, San Francisco, USA
October 27, 2017 – January 20, 2018
VECINOS features five prominent artists living and working in Mexico: Eduardo Sarabia, Cynthia Gutiérrez, Gonzalo Lebrija, Gabriel Rico and Gwladys Alonzo. Aged between 26 and 45, they represent different career points within a new generation emerging from Mexico and gaining notoriety in international circles. Most established are Gonzalo Lebrija and Eduardo Sarabia each of whom have exhibited extensively internationally —Sarabia has a concurrent solo exhibition at the Mistake Room, Los Angeles. Cynthia Gutiérrez, whose work is currently presented in the 57th Biennale di Venezia, has a solo museum exhibition currently at the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah.
VECINOS explores the relationship between memory and place. With varied types of production and distinct methodologies, the artists explore notions of modernity, citizenship, and socio-political impact. Each has an embedded microhistory that speaks to the traditions of place and a distinct socio-cultural landscape. Throughout the exhibition, these artists examine collective memory and individual perception, whether putting a lens to narratives that define place, or utilizing materials and processes associated with a specific region.
Eduardo Sarabia’s work utilizes folklore, traditional craft and a mythology of Mexico’s recent and past history. His series of traditional blue and white Talavera ceramics (produced in collaboration with Guadalajara based Suro Ceramics) depicts contemporary imagery of the Mexican narcos. Whether proffered as a temptation directed at youth to join cartels or badges of worth, the ‘girls, drugs, and power that come hand in hand with goods of the drug trade’ are translated here into traditional motifs. For his recent paintings, Sarabia uses photographic snapshots as a palette to paint larger paintings, obscuring the original subject by the blobs of paint – the final result is a palimpsest of experiences altered, reminding us how the past is shaped over time.
Gonzalo Lebrija has used the mediums of video, photography, and sculpture to examine notions of time resulting in playful works with layers of meaning. His recent series of deconstructed/unfolded paper airplanes and paintings from unfolded paper, bring up questions of memory and transference. The austere geometry of the folds, alluding to the paper in another form, reminds us that nothing is static. The reference of making paper airplanes points to a youthful symbol of imagination and crossing distance. The oil painting Veladura 3 suggests formal aerodynamics with a translucent layering of colors.
Through her research-oriented projects, Cynthia Gutiérrez has used a number of mediums including drawing, painting, video, ready-made, sculpture, and tapestries to explore the ways in which identity or nationalism are embedded in objects, in particular monuments. The artist analyzes the ongoing adherence to ethical and political gestures depicted by aesthetic parameters. Whether through comical sculptural forms or deconstructing text as a formal gesture, Gutiérrez examines the inherent entropy in today’s narratives. Her work Deepwater Pagliacci alludes to the Italian composer Ruggero Leoncavallo’s tragic clown opera and the oil- rig Deepwater Horizon. For Ecos de un imperio II, from 2014, the artist painstakingly removed fragments of a text set in drywall boards. The deconstructed passage is Costa Rican author Carlos Gagini’s La caida de Aguila (The Fall of the Eagle), a political science fiction novel from 1914 that imagines a future war where South American allies defeat a very powerful and expanding United States nation.
An archeologist at heart and architecturally trained, Gabriel Rico is interested in gedanken-experiments: a term Einstein used to describe his unique approach of using conceptual rather than actual experiments to imagine potential consequences. Utilizing found objects and taxidermy, Rico’s sculptures and installations question our relationship to time, nature, and place through the lens of philosophy, science and mysticism. In his wall-hanging sculpture Reductio ad absurdum, 2016 a neon light is shaped as the mathematical symbol of square root and a small boulder is placed inside, acting as the principle of that square root. The title aptly references a form of argument that attempts to disprove a statement by showing it is inevitably ridiculous and absurd. Through this playful assemblage, Rico questions the natural order of existence and the value of humans within it.
Also recontextualizing found objects and common materials, Gwladys Alonzo melds and re-appropriates forms into sculptures that demonstrate a precarious vulnerability. She utilizes classic materials such as metal, wax, concrete, marble, and stone while using unconventional techniques. Her structural gestures embody humor, and question stereotypes associated with the predominantly male practice of sculpture, where eminently phallic verbs such as ‘erect’, ‘raise’, ‘train’ and ‘recover’ are part of the vocabulary. Her works Acapulco I and Acapulco II are site-specific interventions made on site at the new gallery location with concrete, wire, spray enamel and mirrored Plexiglas.