Interview With Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia,” Artillery Magazine, Mar/April. 2013.

Interview With Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia,” Artillery Magazine, Mar/April. 2013.

by Tucker Neel

Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia loves to create objects expressing hybridized meanings, calling attention to how things are not as simple as they first appear. For “by Deborah Calderwood,” his first solo exhibition at CB1 gallery in downtown Los Angeles, he presented paintings appropriated from his wife Deborah’s early childhood drawings, touching on notions of originality and love. For “Papel tejido,” his second solo show, he wove blanket-like forms emblazoned with crosses and steeples from painted paper strips, mingling textile traditions while frustrating the anti-image modernist grid. Hurtado Segovia is currently using those lacing techniques to create embellished pillars and poles that connotatively explore archetypical symbols of faith and power. His formal propositions launch complex discussions about the meanings we invest in everyday objects and the shared histories that make up who we are. I recently sat down with Lorenzo in his home/studio in Tarzana to discuss his past projects and his recent work.

Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia, Papel tejido 31 (verso), 2012, courtesy CB1 Gallery

Artillery: In keeping with the theme of this issue, what are your thoughts about Mexican and American identity in relation to your work?
LHS: My upbringing was first solidly in Juarez, then a border experience, then LA. Now I’m a naturalized U.S. citizen through an amnesty process initiated by family members who dug out my grandma’s birth certificate from California. I’ve been in LA for 11 years. I have a lot of thoughts and emotions shaped by my Mexican psyche. But my day-to-day reality is informed by the United States, by U.S. politics and Chicano politics more specifically, especially with California’s anti-immigrant history, prop 187 and our proximity to Arizona.
[In] my work, a lot of things I see now have threads going back to my youth, especially the notion of being handy and making things. In Juarez everyone needed to know how to do things, put up a wall, mend sheets, fix things. I see this history informing what I do now.

 

I’m wondering how you see your formative years impacting your practice?
Well, when I was 8, my grandmother would take me to this craft store once a week. I would make my mom purses with macramé, and other gifts too. Also in downtown Juarez there were men making bracelets and pens with woven names on them… and crucifixes. I learned how to make those and I started selling them in school. This is where the new work comes from, the weavings on the dowels.

 

How did you come to incorporate this approach into your practice?
Near the end of grad school I started thinking that Modernism missed an opportunity. Through its self-referentiality it explored a lot of ideas but nixed using the broader cultural associations that come with certain materials. I thought, “There’s a conceptual opportunity here.” This led me to the paper weavings, which were interested in the modernist grid and the painterly gesture. By cutting up the gesture and putting it into the grid I was able to make associations with fine art, but also non-fine art—like basket weavings, textiles, and craft traditions. The weavings also occupy a liminal space; they are weavings, but also paintings, and they are also sculptural, so within the taxonomies of the art world that is a critical position to take.

Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia, Cetro 13, 2013, Wood and cord

You use a lot of Christian content in your work, the crosses and religious heraldry. Do you see your work as Christian?
I want my work to be particularly Christian and not be lost in some new age spirituality. In the U.S. fine art context Christianity is often associated with right-wing politicians and social conservatism. With these Christians the only thing we agree on is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and our Lord and Savior, but beyond that, with regard to politics and society, we have very little in common. In the last two years I decided to make Christian content more prevalent in my work, but I hope my work is rich in content and not just about one message. I’m not interested in making Caravaggio paintings that tell a story. I’m more interested in the materials that the Saints surrounded themselves with. That’s been difficult to do because it’s a negotiation with materiality, content and Christian associations. How that’s resolved, I don’t really know, which keeps me interested.

“Graphic Design: Now In Production,” Artillery Magazine, Jan/Feb. 2013.

“Graphic Design: Now In Production,” Artillery Magazine, Jan/Feb. 2013.

by Tucker Neel

graphic_hero

Sourced from mostly North America and Europe designers, “Graphic Design: Now In Production” provides a valuable, although somewhat cursory opportunity to survey the dispersed practices populating the design world today. As the first traveling museum show in America focusing solely on contemporary design in the 21st century, this exhibition is important primarily because it’s the only one of its kind (at least in America) proposing a survey of the field. While there are precedents, like “Graphic Design In America” from 1988 and “Mixing Messages” from 1996, there are no other recent exhibitions against which we can judge “Now In Production’s” curatorial framework or critical reception. This results in the exhibition feeling a bit rushed, as if it were making up for lost time. However, in presenting us with so much, the curators, Ellen Lupton and Andrew Blauvelt allow visitors to reflect on a diversity of design practices, presenting design as a challenging provocateur and an embedded fixture of everyday life.

The exhibition is most engaging when its work blurs graphic design and fine art, client-based needs and individual projects. For example, Michiel Schuurman pushes the capabilities of the Adobe Creative Suite to extremes, producing Op-Art indebted, typographically charged, posters pulsating with dizzying moiré patterns. Sure, they communicate like posters, with times and dates for events, but they do so in a way that flirts with psychedelic incomprehension, questioning just how we read information.

Christophe Szpajdel’s hand-lettered logos

One of my personal favorite bodies of work is Christophe Szpajdel’s hand-lettered logos for dozens of death-metal bands from all over the world. Szpajdel takes email orders for these designs, prints out the request, and draws his mirrored, tendril-y creations on the back of the paper. The collection testifies to how one man can define the aesthetic predilections of an entire musical genre, and highlights the important merger of digital communication and good ole fashioned hand skills.

Unfortunately “Now in Production” doesn’t allow for visitors to page through most of the exhibition’s impressive collection of books and magazines, which exist sealed in transparent display cases. I would understand if these were truly rare publications, but many, like illustrator Mira Kalman’s engaging The Principles of Uncertainty, are available at most bookstores (including the museum’s) for less than $20. Letting the reception of these publications continue to exist only in places of commerce is a truly lost opportunity.

Additionally, problematic displays weaken the show. This is the case with an installation featuring the popular Brand New website, which blogs about the re-branding of companies big and small. With this installation, visitors use yellow tokens to vote on logo changes for companies from Starbucks to the New York Public Library. Sadly, the experience resonates as uncritical of the mechanisms shaping brand allegiance and simply mimics a shopping experience. It’s also worth noting that in light of the recent Hammer Biennial Mohn prize, this installation appears as another example of false populism, the facade of participation masking real decisions dictated from the top-down.

Overall, this exhibition’s chimeric ambitions propose a fortunate solution: major museums, as caretakers of an ever mutating cannon, must fill the holes in their peripheral vision and mount more exhibitions dedicated to charting the field of contemporary design. The graphic design and fine art worlds need to further embrace cross-pollination with the understanding that such hybridization can only help us all evolve together.

“Helen Rebekah Garber: Spells, Spires, and Other Delicate Business,” ARTPULSE Magazine,Vol. 4 . no. 14Winter 2013

“Helen Rebekah Garber: Spells, Spires, and Other Delicate Business” ARTPULSE Magazine,Vol. 4 . no. 14Winter 2013.

by Tucker Neel

Humans have constantly employed meditative and repetitive actions to create immersed states that signal towards a profound desire to escape from the constrictions of embodied corporeality; the oppressiveness of being stuck in a body that must constantly face its own limitations is quite a bummer. The recent work in Helen Rebekah Garber exhibition, “Spells, Spires, and Other Delicate Business, fits perfectly within this precedent, presenting a palimpsest of transcendental referents that speak to more than the sum of their parts.

Impressive, heavily impastoed paintings are the highlight of Garber’s show. Each consists of a basic phallic form circumscribing various geometric patterns referencing meditative and metaphysical precedents. Walking among these works, one is confronted with a barrage of geometric quotations lifted from diverse sources, from the staccato incising on Central African Lulua Masks to the interlacing patterns emblazoned on religious vestments in Byzantine mosaics. While some of Garnder’s works do employ direct references to classic Christian depictions of the Madonna and Child, her paintings avoid falling into a didactic or overtly illustrative trap and instead register an interest in the subject of transcendence instead of any specific religious belief or ideology. In a particularly striking painting, Tower II, Garber’s characteristically flat totemic imagery contains starbursts coupled with embellished amygdaloidal forms, as well as catawampus pin weel forms signifying constellations or vortexes. The resulting conglomeration of obsessively applied brushstrokes comes across as reverential, humble, but strangely clinical.

Helen Rebekah Garber,  Tower II, 2012, oil on canvas, 84"x60". Courtesy Charlie James Gallery.

Helen Rebekah Garber, Tower II, 2012, oil on canvas, 84″x60″. Courtesy Charlie James Gallery.

To construct her paintings Garber puts down colorful layers of oil paint in between clearly drawn lines that, like lead cames holding together stained glass, provide the basic architectonic structure holding the imagery together. After this she obfuscates her chromatic process almost entirely by applying a white patina to every area of color. Garber’s painted whiteness functions as a kind of critical barrier allowing one to maintain a distance from imagery at hand. After all, the obfuscation of a thing makes its presence even more conspicuous, reducing subject to elemental sign, a testament to almost primordial communicative power. While it might seem like an evasive maneuver, a withdrawal, the unifying gesture is actually an invitation for viewers to reflect on the subject of the work and not the loaded religiosity of its referent.

Garber’s exhibition also includes heavily worked black and white drawings that function like sketches of the larger paintings yet lack the physical impact of their pigmented progeny. Unfortunately the drawings read like schematic plans, a programmatic approach that gives away too much. Their juxtaposition with the larger paintings is like the difference between seeing preparatory drawings for the mosaics in St. Peter’s Cathedral and witnessing the real thing in person and being confronted with the mind-blowing reality of the accumulation of thousands of tiny ceramic squares. In the presence of such work, physical labor is wedded to the sign of devotion. Thankfully Garber’s paintings make this connection effectively, with just enough restraint to allow for sustained contemplation.

 

“(Re-) Cycles of Paradise,” ARTPULSE Magazine,Vol. 5 No 14,Winter 2013.

“(Re-) Cycles of Paradise,” ARTPULSE Magazine,Vol. 5 No 14,Winter 2013.

by Tucker Neel

“(Re-) Cycles of Paradise”, exhibition view. Photo: Joshua White. Courtesy LACE.

“(Re-) Cycles of Paradise”, exhibition view. Photo: Joshua White. Courtesy LACE.

“(Re-) Cycles of Paradise,” organized by the curatorial collective ARTPORT_making waves, presents visitors with works that address connections between conceptions of gender and climate change. At first glance the exhibition appears like a display room for inventive projects ready for prospective backers. Indeed, certain works use this to their advantage while calling attention to the fact that the structures of oppression and objectification that impact and shape conceptions of gender are related to the way climate change is equally enmeshed in ideology and modes of power which create or delay action.

One of the most engaging and visually impressive works on display is Insa Winkler’s [In] Dependency Water, EM (Effective Microorganism) from 2009, which highlights a rather ingenious water purification technology. The setup includes a silhouette of a figure holding a jug made from strings of ceramic beads hanging from the ceiling. As unpurified water flows over the beads, it eventually becomes potable. Visitors can take sample beads with them, with contact info about how to support the project. It is well known that in areas where water is scarce or polluted by chemical and human waste, women perform the tasks of carrying water, purifying it, and using it for household tasks. Winkler’s display gestures towards this fact while not simply casting the problem as aesthetic. Instead, the work expands the parameters of artistic experience, proposing that we value the work as inventive, sustainable, beautiful, and usable design.

A work occupying a very different kind of register is Roman Singer’s Tisch (Table) from 1986. Singer’s work consists of a simple wooden kitchen table, its legs planted in metal buckets, which in turn float inside larger water-filled buckets. How is one to interpret this work? In previous exhibitions the artist presented a version of Table in photographic form, with the work set adrift on a body of water in a field of small blue melting icebergs. This documentation contextualizes the piece in relation to specific environmental phenomena: the melting of ice into water. But here in the gallery the piece seeks to work on a more symbolic level; a connotative connection must be agreed upon in order to follow the work’s intended references. But does the end result of this serve to only lead one to seek “awareness” of a problem? After this, what happens? Catharsis? Fear? Action? Perhaps Singer’s Table leads us to a problem deep within a larger imagination of climate change as both concept and reality.

Climate change has for some time now taken on the character of a cancerous tumor growing inside a troubled patient mired in denial. The metastasized threat has grown too pervasive to ignore, yet the reality of its consequences-painful treatments, the loss of independence, possible death-are so dire the patient engages in a kind of disavowal, admitting knowledge of the immanent peril, yet acting as if oblivious, consciously doing nothing. The actions that do follow often seek to temper anxiety, turning confrontation into abstractions and self-conscious ironic poetics. This is why we seek to buy our way out of global catastrophe with fundraisers, green-washed products, and corporate-sponsored “awareness campaigns,” instead of demanding and enacting the drastic systemic change needed to stave off the ramifications of globally significant rising waters and warmer temperatures. Perhaps through examining how Table engages in this process of allowing us to project our fears instead of confront them, we might come away with a better understanding of how we think about climate change and its very real material impacts on humans and nature, with the growing knowledge that the two might not be separate, but one and the same.

 

Lucy Raven at The Hammer Museum Fall 2012

Lucy Raven at The Hammer Museum Fall 2012

by Tucker Neel

RP31
2012, 35mm film, color, 4:48min looped.
Installed at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles from September 11, 2012 to January 20, 2013, RP31 is an animation composed from 31 film projection test patterns and calibration charts.

To create RP31, her latest installation at the Hammer museum, Lucy Raven first collected film test patterns, strips of celluloid used by projectionists for decades to calibrate focus for movie screenings. Each projector has it’s own test pattern, which screens before audiences take their seats. In this way the test patterns make intelligible vision possible while remaining intentionally invisible to the audience they aid. Raven then digitally scanned these test patterns, spliced them up, and printed them back to 35 mm celluloid. The resulting film sequences the images in a frenetic pulsating order on a Möbius strip attached to a hulking and loud projector placed on the floor of the museum’s darkened screening room. One is invited to sit on comfortable chairs to take in what is a truly unique and poetically critical visual experience.

In a rather comedic turn, Raven’s coagulation of pulsating test patterns are impossible to focus on, their images appearing for only a fraction of a second like some sort of subliminal messaging experiment. The test patters themselves are quite beautiful, with color gradations, starbursts, checkered black and white grids, pools of concentric circles, symmetrical lines of numbers and text, and gorgeous, light-illuminated blocks of pure color. When the stills overlap in one’s retinal memory they bring to mind Bauhaus color theory, Russian constructivist compositions, and of course the psychedelic experiments of Timothy Leary and the Merry Pranksters. While the intoxicating patterns draw the viewer in, it is Raven’s installation, combined with the history behind her work, which provides us with a much deeper critical proposition.

Through her collection of projection test patterns, Raven has become one of the only archivists of these important, yet hidden, features of cinematic history and has consequentially preserved one of the only physical signs to the projectionist’s presence preserved in film. In keeping with Raven’s interest in globalization and labor (her previous animations focusing on Chinese workers and the mining of natural resources), RP31 foregrounds the role of the film projectionist whose craft is integral to film history, yet threatened by the digital age and its new job positions. Sitting next to the whirring projector, with it’s clicking reels and humming motor emitting the unmistakable, perhaps nostalgic, smell of well-oiled gears and heated film, one cannot help but think of clashing technologies, the industrial revolution passing into a digital world, the trained projectionist with specialized knowledge giving way to the modern-day AV tech in charge of multiple media. In pondering this shift one jumps to questions of the concurrent movement of labor and technologies across increasingly globalized market-driven economies.

In addition to Raven’s work interrogating questions of presence and absence, viewer and worker, her underlying critique implicitly works to deconstructs heriarchies of power. Such a critique is made apparent by Raven’s choice to position her large projector on the floor in the room with the audience and not in the museum’s projectionist’s room a few feet above. This placement makes the projector both conspicuous and subject to analysis. The projector’s placement means the height of the film image is so low that one’s shadow easily interrupts the screening, as if to make one aware of one’s own presence, frustrating the clean line demarcating performer and audience. One is left to reflect on how all media that attempts to inform and entertain gains meaning from contingent relations of power, dependent on hierarchies and conventions made intentionally invisible. As a point of inspiration, Raven has given us an example of how these relations can be brought to light.

Nicola Verlato at Merry Karnowsky Gallery

Nicola Verlato at Merry Karnowsky Gallery

by Tucker Neel

 

Nicola Verlato at Merry Karnowsky

Nicola Verlato
Take the Road to Nowhere
Oil on canvas
59” x 96”

 

Nicola Verlato is a masterful painter, as evidenced by the impressive technique in each of the grand paintings of disastrous automotive accidents in his most recent show, Zero Gravity at Merry Karnowsky Gallery. Through impressive scale and dramatic composition, each painting engages with the legacy of Baroque painting, harkening back to masters like Caravaggio and Rubens. But what does Verduto convey beyond recognizable virtuosity?

Three of five of Verlato’s painted car crashes are loaded with some form of illicit activity, either direct or implied. In Take The Road To Nowhere a cherry red car spills forth four beautiful women in various states of undress, their bodies frozen in mid-air alongside a jettisoned opened bottle of prescription pills and an open Sapporo can. In Car Crash 5 four similar women cascade from a hot rod along with hundred dollar bills, a handgun, and a knife. One cannot help but suppose the suspicious paraphernalia flying around played a role in the accident unfolding in the painting. In this way the work comes across as a moralizing allegory warning against the consequences of reckless behavior, something akin to a D.A.R.E. or a M.A.D.D. commercial. Yet the problematic politics underlying these works doesn’t end here.

The mannequin-like women in Verlato’s works come across as beautiful objects in a composition; like the cars they are falling from, they are something to be looked at and not representations of real individualized people. We rarely see any of the women’s faces because they are covered by hair and flailing limbs, yet we are given ample views of their pert breasts, bared mid-drifts and long legs sprouting from tiny cut-offs shorts and skirts. To see these works as simply evidence of masterful brushwork, dramatic composition, and perhaps commentary on the unfortunate consequences of contemporary decadence is to brush aside the overt sexism at play. The problematic and regressively conservative politics embedded in these works fixes the women on display as objectified, absent any agency, marked as undesirable and dangerous by their weapons and intoxication, the creators of their own undoing, tumbling to their inevitable and death. Perhaps even more disturbing is that this violence is intentionally rendered beautifully without ever indicting the viewer as complicit or culpable.

Nicola Verlato
Car Crash 4
Oil on canvas
48” x 36”

However, Car Crash 4 works to rescue Verlato’s women as active participants in a kind of urban warfare. In this work a purple convertible careens out of control as its driver struggles to hold the wheel and her machine gun at the same time, her face contorted in a mixture of pain and concentration. The front passenger glances aghast at unseen pursuers. A third topless accomplice holds tight to the trunk as the car speeds away. But the primary figure stands firm and strong, her back to us as she deftly fires a single missile from a rocket-launcher in the direction of the Hollywood sign. While their actions may appear outside of the law, these women’s assertiveness, as evidenced by determined postures, facial expressions, and badass accoutrements, thankfully mark them as makers of their own story, creators of their own meaning, and not merely props manipulated to sell a tired ideology.

 

 

 

“Seth Weiner,” Artillery Magazine, June/July.Vol. 7 Issue 2.

“Seth Weiner,” Artillery Magazine, June/July.Vol. 7 Issue 2.

by Tucker Neel

A GROUP OF HOMING PIGEONS HAVE TAKEN UP RESIDENCE AT Venice 6114, an experimental exhibition space in Culver City. These birds, housed in a wooden coop built into the façade of the gallery, play a key role in the artist Seth Weiner’s recent project, “Twitter Carrier Pigeons,” curated by Sergio Bromberg. For this work Weiner affixed each pigeon with a custom-built device linked to specific twitter accounts primarily tweeting news from places of conflict and revolt, most often in the Middle East. Weiner then followed these pigeons as they made their journey from the Pacific Coast Highway along the 10 Freeway towards a coop in Alhambra, passing six electronic highway signs along the way. When the pigeons flew within 10 to 15 feet of an electronic freeway sign the most recent tweet on their assigned twitter account appeared in “amber alert” capital letters, for everyone to see.

The resulting documentation of Weiner’s intervention appears as large framed photographs in the gallery, each mounted on singular walls erected specifically for this exhibition. One particularly quizzical photo captures a sign stating: TO MEDIA: PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SOURCES IN #DAMASCUS. As if to literalize the pigeons’ journey, the artist has divided the gallery down the middle with a narrow waist-high wall holding a topographical rendering of the 10 Freeway, complete with miniature freeway signs. Additionally, the backside of each small wall holds vinyl text and archival photos about the history of messenger pigeons, along with photos of people who appear to be smuggling objects and information. One text tells of a North African caliph who had pigeons bring him single cherries in silk bags from Lebanon, creating the first “parcel post.” The exhibition’s design resembles a didactic museum display, something intended to educate and inspire further investigation.

While Weiner’s process itself inspires “how’d he do that” interest, the work is much more than a tech gimmick. People have hacked electronic road signs before; the instructions are available on the web, and a simple search reveals signs altered to display funny messages like “ZOMBIES AHEAD.” But Weiner’s intervention is different. The fact that the artist had no control over which specific tweets would appear on the highway signs helps to bypass discussions of individual wittiness, and instead allows the work to engage with the urgency of its site, the freeway sign itself. In placing politically engaged twitter feeds into a very public setting on the relay mechanisms designed to alert us to emergencies, accidents and crimes in our immediate vicinity, Weiner’s project directs our attention to larger more pressing questions of how and where news and information reaches us, and calls attention to voices that are often ignored or dismissed in favor of more “authoritative” sources. With Weiner’s work we see a critical investigation into the fragility and urgency of communication, and the desire to share pressing and important information. If truly revolutionary art has engaged with politicizing the overlooked and mundane as well as meeting people where they least expect it, then Weiner’s work succeeds to great effect.