During my first studio visit with Cayetano Ferrer, we spent some time reviewing the different aspects of the projects he has done in Vegas, such as the modular carpets he’s reconfigured on several occasions out of the residues and left overs of the casinos carpets in the city. It was particularly interesting to see how he contextualizes these works in the social history of Vegas as a spectacle city, one that is intricately related to its political background as a nuclear test site. Cayetano also spoke at length about his research with different materials around ornament, reflection and casting, and about the way he has translated that into books and design.
After meeting with Cayetano, I went to Gala Porras Kim’s studio. That was a particularly enjoyable visit because we spoke of her recent exhibition ‘An Index and it Settings’ at Labor gallery in Mexico City, which is a continuation of the project she is currently showing in ‘A Universal History of Infamy’ at LACMA, and of ‘An Index and its Histories’ also related to that that series at Commonwealth and Council in Los Angeles. In all of these projects she explores the origins of a series of pre-Columbian pieces from Western Mexico. She shared her interest in ethnography, anthropology and art history, which has often infused new life into stories that might otherwise have gone missing. She explained her extensive research into Zapotec, a tonal language from the region of Oaxaca that has been translated by the local population into whistling tones as a form of resistance to colonialism. It was particularly interesting to see how she addresses the frictions that result between the provenance, interpretation and conservation of these historical artifacts in public institutions and private collections, testing the ability of what she calls ‘mute objects’ to create knowledge.
Next day, I met with Mariah Garnett, whom I later realized I had already met some years ago in Los Angeles at our mutual friend’s house Shirley Morales, where she first told me about her ambitious project Other and Father. I was very pleased to realize that she was finally able to complete the project with the help of Artadia. I found Mariah’s way of addressing personal history and documentary practices very compelling. We spent most of our time talking about Other and Father and I May Or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin, two very layered and complex works that address identity issues from very different perspectives, and that explore different manners of using visual imagery, found footage, installation and film.
From Mariah’s studio I moved on to Leslie Shows’ studio. It was interesting to see how she is dealing with the challenge of translating her very delicate collages and her fine experiments with ink and paint—a very personal way to deal and play with materiality—to a larger format in the public commission she is doing for a San Francisco train station. In a similar way, most of the time I spent at Josh Mannis’s studio, we talked about his creative process. We discussed the different source images for his work—most of the time compelling images taken either from the press and/or popular films reflecting a particular political landscape—that he then translates into very detailed and skilled drawings. These are in turn projected on canvas to elaborate his colorful paintings.
It was also particularly interesting to encounter Nicole Millers work. We not only had a chance to review her different videos from The Borrowers, a series dealing with loss, appropriation and performance: David (on phantom limbs), Ndinda (on the laughing therapist), Anthony (the double of Jimmy Hendrix rambling on Hollywood Boulevard that Nicole had playing and singing on stage), and to discuss how she is also constantly looking into finding new ways to display her work, and to articulate her videos in order to trigger an expanded dialogue among them. We also spoke about her upcoming projects and about how her interest in marginal communities and their relationship to spectacle might be translated into a different media like sculpture.
My last visit was with Stanya Kahn. We had a chance to see her most recent work in ceramics and also to review some of her films, specifically Stand in the Stream. It was very interesting to see how she is able to mix personal history via the figure of her mother and her actions as a political activist, through a fast-pace editing of live stream, found footage as well as her mother’s personal archive as a testimony of particular historical and political moments. In a similar way Don’t Go Back to Sleep utilizes actors and non-actors, scripted and improvised scenarios, to stage a portrait of the economic crash in an abandoned suburban house, exploring the limits of the real and the fictive.
Magali Arriola is an art critic and independent curator currently living in Mexico City. She was curator at Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo between 2011 and 2014, where she organized exhibitions of artists such as James Lee Byars (co-curated with Peter Eleey and co-produced with MoMA-PS1), Guy de Cointet and Danh Vo, and curated shows contextualizing works from the Jumex Collection. She was Chief Curator of Museo Tamayo between 2009 and 2011 where she curated exhibitions and projects with artists such as Roman Ondák, JoachimKoester, Claire Fontaine, Adrià Julia and Julio Morales. She was visiting curator at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art in San Francisco in 2006 where she curated Prophets of Deceit. From 1998 to 2001 she was Chief Curator at the Museode Arte Carrillo Gil in Mexico City, where she worked with a generation of artists that include Eduardo Abaroa, Francis Alÿs, Miguel Calderon, Daniela Rossell and Pablo Vargas Lugo. Her independent projects include The Sweet Burnt Smell of History: The 8th Panama Biennial(2008); What once passed for a future, or The landscapes of the living dead (Art2102, Los Angeles, 2005); How to Learn to Love the Bomb and Stop Worrying about it (CANAIA, México City / Central de Arte at WTC, Guadalajara, Mexico, 2003-2004); Alibis (Mexican Cultural Institute, Paris /Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2002); Erógena (Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City / SMAK/ Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, 2000); Peter Greenaway, Painting and Artifice (Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, 1997). Arriola has extensively written for books, and catalogues and has contributed to publications such as Art Forum, Curare, Frieze, Mousse, Manifesta Journal, and The Exhibitionist, among others.