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Identidad, Loteria, Geometria y the Mexican-American Generation

The third and final panel discussion for Outpost for Contemporary Art’s Sur: Biennial took place at the Standard Hotel in downtown LA, a central location that bridges the East and West sides.  Panel participants included Raul Balthazar, Jane Castillo, Elana Mann, Karla Diaz, Ichiro Irie, and was moderated by Tulsa Kinney, editor of Artillery magazine.  The artists that were chosen for the Biennial represent a vibrant, urban and multiethnic LA, and they attempted to discuss just that, cultural identity and labeling in the world of art.  Because I’m very interested in this topic, I  wish that the artists would have elaborated more on their specific works included in the biennial and perhaps how the works relate to their culture or cultural upbringing in this melting pot we live in. With all this in mind, I decided to drive East and check out the diverse and multifaceted nature of identity in the artwork found in this very complex city. Starting in East LA, I visited a new contemporary art gallery called The Beverly Project, which is an annex of ChimMaya Gallery and an experimental space exhibiting known and emerging artists.  Curated by William Moreno, Luis Delgado Qualtrough’s exhibition Loteria & Metaphors consists of a deck of cards, The Cosmological Loteria, a contemporary interpretation of Mexico’s popular game-of-chance.  The original images from Loteria are now iconic and part of Mexican popular culture.  As children, we learn riddles and rhymes such as “Con los cantos de sirena, no te vayas a marear: La Sirena!”; “¡Ah, qué borracho tan necio, ya no lo puedo aguantar!: El Borracho!”; “Al pasar por el panteón, me...

Akina Cox: A profile by Ariane Vielmetter

Akina Cox is a tall woman with a petite voice. A voice that, like her tenderly crafted collages, films and sculptures, has the tendency to (sweetly) deliver gut punches and initiate heavy-duty discourse. I remember her casually piping up that “the art market at CalArts is like sex at a Catholic school” during a heated classroom debate about whether it was justifiable to make “saleable objects” after the triumph of conceptualism. She was pointing to a developing culture of naïveté, denial and dismissal in art students’ attitudes towards the increasingly privatized and unregulated art market that they are thrust into, or barred out of, after graduating. So much information about the commercial side of the art world is unspoken or ignored in academia, which prevents many students from developing a practice that maintains agency despite market whims. Cox suggests a more proactive approach: to gather as much information as possible and use it to infiltrate and manipulate a rigid system. It’s the notion that in order to approach abstraction, you first have to understand representation, or, in order to make yourself visible, you first have to spend some of your time hiding. Cox doesn’t really make saleable work herself. On the contrary, she almost compulsively rethinks her practice as soon as it becomes comfortable, logical, or predictable. Her work is a disappearing act – it takes as its subject the flickering space between ground and figure, phoneme and word, accident and intention, play and work. With minimal gestures and humble materials, she is able to make  something out of nothing. Many of her works rehabilitate a sort of magical...

Cornfabulation – Curry and Hawkins at Kordansky

There is relentless good cheer at the Cornfabulation exhibition, a sense of boys having fun with their brightly colored toys. There is also an underlying feeling that none of this play would survive outside its own fun house atmosphere and that perhaps this work is too cynical to survive except through the intervention of a culture that is on spiritual life support. On the other hand, it is such a good party to visit! Walking around the galleries I felt like I was inside one of the haunted house sculptures that Hawkins has been showing for a few years and my mind wandered to a book that I have long heard associated with the artist – Joris-Karl Huysmans’ À rebours, with its tale of Jean Des Esseintes, a decadent end-of-the-line aristocrat who decorates his house in fabulous manner, with arcane and barbarous cultural artifacts. (My use of ‘barbarous’here quotes from a wonderfully overheated Wikipedia entry for the novel.) This thought sure fits: the gallery is breathlessly decorated – with wallpaper made by the artists, sculptures, and collages that are titled “Trophy” and that might be record albums displayed on the wall, and might also be the remnants of somebody’s prey. A nasty business, this art making. Hawkins’ work has for years made use of magazine ads, pop music literature and other printed pop culture sources as mines of images of young boys, which the artist then objectifies as pretty foci of desire. That these boys may defensibly be presented to us as young men (and therefore adults) shouldn’t be any comfort to us, we whose culture allows the original objectification...