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Art & Dialogue: Los Angeles Summary by Dexter Wimberly
I’ve always had a deep interest in the LA art scene. In October, I had the opportunity to conduct studio visits with an eclectic array of visual artists living and working in the city. During my visit, I also gave a presentation about my curatorial practice at LAXART. To share what I learned during my fantastic studio visits, I interviewed each artist, asking the following 2 questions:
What new (or ongoing) body of work are you currently working on?
What upcoming exhibition or new project are you looking forward to?
Below are the answers they shared.
I am working on some new work and continuing the old. I am moving ahead vigorously on my Captive series on false imprisonment. The series began as a triptych, telling the story of three innocent men who each spent 14,229 days in prison. I have two more going right now. The NLB paintings continue as well. My art writing hopes took a blow when I was named a finalist, then informed I would go no further, in the Warhol Foundation Arts Writers competition. Perhaps next year.
I also, in keeping with my previous performance work, have been writing plays—one was accepted to a literary journal and had a staged reading at a Houston theatre. I will also be a resident artist in Santa Monica and will teach workshops on playwriting, serialist painting, and creating manifestos. The manifesto workshop is related to a text series, Broadsides, that I have been doing for years. Also, right now, I am gathering images to apply for a Gottlieb Foundation Grant but I’m having trouble salvaging my history—they want at least 20 years of practice as evidence—after my devastating data loss last year.
Currently, I’m working on a series of works that are about reconstituting ritual elements of the pyramid of the sun in Mexico City, which were found inside the pyramid thus not reconstructed. My Future Generation Art Prize exhibition will take place in Kiev in February and in Venice in May. I’m also doing a month-long workshop at Beta-Local in Puerto Rico in May/June and the Ural Biennial in September. I am curating an exhibition at MOCA from their permanent collection in October, as well as some other exhibitions that will be announced later.
I am currently working on my thesis exhibition which will incorporate poetry, glass, sound, and photography to position freedom as a fugitivity outside of the romantic and teleological constraints within which it is traditionally inscribed. The development of this project will examine how black culture and the history of modern slavery reorients Western collective understandings of freedom, property, and personhood. The central component of this exhibition will be a sound piece comprised of distorted fragments of a three-volume series of vinyl records produced and sponsored by Pepsi-Cola in the 1960s. Entitled, Adventures in Negro History, the series dramatized the history of black people in the United States. This body of work will focus solely on the second volume, The Frederick Douglas Years, and use samplings from David Walker’s 1829 Appeal in Four Articles, which Douglas himself later referenced in his famous speech “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro” (1852). The resulting sound piece will be presented through a set of glass sculptures in the shape of overturned flower pots. This gesture makes reference to scholar Saidiya Hartman’s discussion in her 1997 book Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America of motifs of inversion in black culture, such as overturned flowerpots at African American cemeteries or black slaves’ use of overturned pots against doors to muffle the sounds of their secret meetings from their masters. The exhibition will go up in April/May 2019 in the University of California-Irvine Art Gallery.
In addition to my thesis work, I’m working on a series of glass works that combine imagery and poetry; this series is an extension of prior text and photographic work I did in the past. I’m looking forward, as well, to begin researching architecture and psychoanalysis as a means to think about the ways the materials used to create the spaces in which we dwell (materials like glass, for example), reinforce spatial politics of difference and surveillance.
My recent body of work engages with the 1920’s American architectural trend of Mayan Revival buildings, which co-opted the architecture and iconography of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The single-channel video “Ch’u Mayaa,” a commission from the City of Los Angeles for the Getty’s initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, responded to the overlooked influence of Mayan architecture on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House (1919-1921). For this residency, I will develop a new concept for a video at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House, another Mayan Revival building from the same period located in Los Angeles. As in past work, I will use decolonizing strategies to recontextualize the building’s historical narrative. This time, I intend to have ancient Mayan musical instruments, held in many Pre-Columbian Art collections in the US, played at the house, and combine footage of these performances with recordings of curators and collectors describing the provenance of each instrument. My hope is to link the travel of an archeological instrument with the travel of an architectural style, and ultimately, to complicate how cultures are appropriated and transformed.
Upcoming exhibition: Clarissa Tossin, a Radcliffe fellow in 2017–2018, expands upon her fellowship project with a newly commissioned exhibition that considers the ecology of an uncertain future. Inspired by Octavia E. Butler’s science fiction trilogy Xenogenesis (1989), in which the Amazon becomes the site for a new civilization of alien-human hybrids, Tossin speculates upon a post-apocalyptic world following ecological collapse. Pairing DIY plastic recycling techniques with the materials and practices of Amazonian aesthetic traditions, Tossin highlights the contemporary footprint left in the geological sedimentation of the earth. These new works consider indigenous knowledge in relationship to the environment, while they also resemble ruins of a world yet to come. More at: https://onviewatradcliffe.org/future-fossil-1
These days I’m going through something of a social realist phase. I’m obsessed with the news, and have been taking my ongoing horror as a worthy starting point for new projects. The problems feel very primary and old fashioned on one hand, and very futuristic and incomprehensible on the other. Letting it stay sticky, while also clearing space to emote directly, is surprisingly tough, and feels very worthwhile to me.
The next painting I’m going to start is a composition of Barbara Underwood presenting her petition to the New York State Supreme Court to sue the Donald J. Trump Foundation. She’s justified to the left of the picture, and gestures with a Manila folder to the bench, in the center of the space. The jurists grasp at furniture as they float upwards in geometric poses that align with the architecture of the courtroom.
I’m currently working on a series of oil paintings with symbolic objects enmeshed that map the course of a mountain river to the sea. They address the ephemerality of life, interconnectivity and the Anthropocene. They were coaxed into being by Herman Hesse’s passage from Siddhartha “That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
Currently, I also have work on view in Manchester, England at Paper Gallery and I’ll have paintings in an exhibition at The Loft at Liz’s, Los Angeles, CA in March 2019. In the coming weeks, I’ll be executing a piece as an intervention in nature that will be documented photographically and of course, I’m constantly building an ongoing series of work towards a solo exhibition. I’ll be curating two exhibitions at Mash Gallery in downtown Los Angeles in 2019. It’s a two-part exhibition featuring LA artists working with the body and politics. Part one is titled The Hooded Orb. Part two, Under The Shadow Of The Obelisk.
Currently, I am working on a performative based drawing series called ‘Tracing the Unfolded Creases’. Using different strategies, I fold up thick drawing paper and then unfold and flatten it as much as possible. I use red ink to trace the indentions and black ink to trace the protrusions. ‘Patches’ are also filled in at the crossroads of these marking/folds using particular rules of engagement. I’ve also starting investigating a text based drawing series that infers images using typewritten text on 81/2 x 11 paper.
I’m looking forward to seeing how these text based drawings develop. I’d love the opportunity to work in a clean space that allows for installing drawings/objects as well as site specific/site inspired installations and/or projections that may include a performative element. I would be interested in collaborations as well.