“An Idea of a Boundary”

San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery
401 Van Ness Ave.
September 22–January 20

View of “An Idea of a Boundary,” 2017.

The title of this group exhibition derives from a passage in Ursula K. Le Guin’s science-fiction novel The Dispossessed (1974) describing a low, unassuming wall that acts as an absolute border between two planets. The ten artists featured here contend with boundaries that delineate both physical and psychological divisions. Several of the modest photographs in Park McArthur’s Leads, 2016, document thresholds at Chisenhale Gallery in London with door saddles that may look innocuous to some, but may be obstacles for people who use wheelchairs. Gina Osterloh’s film Press and Outline, 2014, also engages with the fraught relationship between the body and its surroundings, as the artist slowly traces the periphery of her own shadow on the wall, blurring the line between the tangible self and its fleeting companion.

The urban landscape and its frequent associate—gentrification—factor into several works in the exhibition, including Hannah Ireland’s Carry On/Fall Out/Find Your Place Here, 2017. Seven mesh knapsacks filled with eroding bricks collected from the shore of a San Francisco neighborhood in the process of upheaval are arranged in a line, speaking to the exposed weight of displacement. Two potent works by Davina Semo confront the viewer with archetypal exclusionary barriers. One of them, a stark gray mirror protected by a forbidding steel grate, borrows its title, SHE SAID THAT THE OUTLINES OF THINGS AND PEOPLE WERE DELICATE, THAT THEY BROKE, 2017, from Elena Ferrante’s novel The Story of the Lost Child (2014). Both the work and its title allude to the idea that solid boundaries can easily dissolve, and that spatial distinctions are often more complicated than they seem.

Jeanne Gerrity

William Cordova

Marfa Contemporary
100 East San Antonio St.
October 6–December 22

View of “William Cordova: ankaylli: spatial and ideological terrain,” 2017.

The handwritten words “collection of narrative bits” appear in the lower left corner of a collage from a suite of ten, titled untitled (constellations), 2017. Seemingly innocuous, this phrase suggests a through line for William Cordova’s dense installation of paintings, drawings, collages, found objects, books, photographs, sculptures, video, and sound works, all conjoined by massive spiral-shaped scaffolding built from two-by-fours. The motif of the spiral repeats in the grooves of an LP containing field recordings the artist captured in Chicago at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and the Young Lords People’s Church. For Cordova, the two sites are examples of efforts to join architecture and spirituality, a tradition he traces back to Aztec and Andean building practices. In an alcove of the gallery, the video calle luna calle sol (ai apaec yemayá watatsumi) (moon street sun street [ai apaer yemayá watasumi]), 2017, features the coast of Barranco in Lima, Peru, a sacred site for Andeans as well as a possible precolonial trade route between Asia and the Americas. Each work in this exhibition contains layers of referents and histories, some of which may only be recognizable depending on one’s own personal and cultural background.

The project extends beyond the space of the gallery: Cordova worked with local residents to create concrete spheres, which contain their personal items, that are placed strategically throughout sites in Marfa to mimic the shape of the Big Dipper. These, like all the components of the show, make up one sliver of a multidimensional universe, its points of access and interchange constantly shifting.


Chelsea Weathers

Pepe Mar

Locust Projects
3852 North Miami Avenue
November 18–January 20

View of “Pepe Mar: Man of the Night,” 2017.

In this modestly sized project gallery, Miami-based artist Pepe Mar manages to present a survey of colorful assemblages and collages made over the last fifteen years as well as new work. The past and present blur here. Mar’s approach to this compilation is not straightforward: He has digitally reconstructed images of his previous pieces and printed them onto large, irregular pieces of fabric that were then stitched together, stained, and often appliquéd. The overall composition becomes the installation’s walls, from which pipelike forms, also covered in fabric, intertwine and spill out onto the floor.

The installation Man of the Night, 2017, veers between evoking nostalgia and eagerness for an incipient future—and not just in the context of Mar’s practice. For instance, strewn throughout the installation are ephemera such as a flyer found in the collage Post no bills, 2017, from parties at queer clubs in San Francisco and Miami that the artist frequented. For Mar, these were sanctuaries, many of which are no longer around. His installation effectively brings into being a material world that embodies the camaraderie he felt in those sites.

The lack of space to amble in the galley nudges viewers into the aforementioned soft sculptural forms, and in this way, they find themselves drawn into the installation and, by extension, the artist’s world. Even a lone person here is hardly isolated.

Alpesh Kantilal Patel

“Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas”

3824 Main Street
September 16–February 4

Rigo 23, Autonomous Intergalactic Space Program, 2009–, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.

One of the most refreshing facets of “Mundos Alternos” is its inclusion of artists from states and territories outside the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA paradigm—Puerto Rico, Texas, New Mexico, and New York—introducing the work of dynamic artists such as Hector Hernandez to California audiences. Made with pieces of brightly colored fabric and natural gusts of wind, Hernandez’s photographs Bulca, 2015, and Sound of Winter, 2014, image what the artist terms “hyperbeasts,” inhuman creatures with no discernable gender. Costuming as worlding is a happy constant throughout the exhibition, apparent in the dazzling garments of Mundo Meza, Robert “Cyclona” Legorreta, Carmelita Tropicana, LA VATOCOSMICO c-s, Guadalupe Maravilla, Luis Valderas, and the AZTLAN Dance Company. As with any good show about science fiction, there are also flying spacecrafts of all kinds, featured in Gyula Kosice’s video The Hydrospatial City, 2003, Beatriz Cortez’s virtuosic steel and video work Memory Insertion Capsule, 2017, and Glexis Novoa’s quiet graphite-on-marble drawing, Benares (The Last Photograph), 2013.

Rigo 23’s planetarium, Autonomous Intergalactic Space Program, 2009–, has particular gravitas and is worth special mention, for it was developed in coordination with the Good Government Junta of Morelia, Chiapas, in Mexico. Many of the themes and symbols in this piece derive from the antiglobalization efforts and imagery of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation; snails, ears of corn with masked Zapatista faces on their kernels, and multiheaded beasts representing capitalism abound. A small-format painting installed near the end of Rigo 23’s installation reads: “QUEREMOS IN MUNDO DONDE QUEPAN MUCHOS MUNDOS” (We want a world where many worlds are possible). This exhibition handily fans that desire, thereby providing one of the most thoughtful and engrossing exhibitions to come out of PST: LA/LA.

Andy Campbell

Amalia Pica

The Power Plant
231 Queens Quay West
September 29–December 31

View of “Amalia Pica: ears to speak of,” 2017.

Amalia Pica plays with the basic coordinates of sculpture here, presenting monumental objects with opulent volume but no mass, and small prostrate forms that are weighty but seem visually buoyant due to their surface treatment. In the first of these categories is Ears, 2017, cardboard reconstructions of derelict satellite dishes and other antiquated acoustic instruments that the artist found in the British county of Kent. The original mechanisms were built in the early twentieth century to detect sonic harbingers of incoming aircrafts, but they were quickly rendered obsolete by newer technological advances. Pica’s versions are large enough to dominate the space of the gallery, though their lightweight material gives them a fragile, provisional quality that evokes the accelerated obsolescence that befell their progenitors. One Ear in particular resembles a ruined and abandoned Greek amphitheater, while another is large enough to be a throne for a classical god.

The other four works on display, all part of Pica’s series “In Praise of Listening,” 2016, take hearing aids as their model, though the artist inflates their size to that of a small engine. Carved out of soapstone, granite, and marble, the forms evince a hollow flimsiness due to their polished, plastic-like exterior, even as their matter lends them great density. Blown-up to this preposterous size and connected by transparent plastic tubing, these strange objects lose all similarity to their minute forebears. They sprawl across the floor like discarded apparatuses in some posthuman landscape, their purpose forgotten.

Dan Jakubowski

Théo Mercier

Berlín 37, Col. Juárez
November 10–January 13

View of “Théo Mercier: Phantom Legacy,” 2017.

The title of Théo Mercier’s first solo exhibition in Mexico, “Phantom Legacy,” refers to relics of a time that never existed. The show largely features more than a dozen assemblages made by the Mexico City–based artist during a residency at the gallery this year, which overlapped with the city’s devastating earthquake in September. The concerns of Mercier’s work, such as conflating the aesthetics of archeology with those of contemporary art, as well as the precariousness of objects, find added poignancy in the timing of this show.

After a renovation of the gallery, the artist took the debris of the original ceiling to create a rubble floor that crunches under one’s feet, in what is meant to add a performative element to the show. It could have been read as a heavy-handed gesture, given recent events, in a less cohesive installation. But Mercier wryly mirrors the pervasive cultural impulse to piece things back together.

In the first room, he exhibits an untitled 2017 series of plinths piled with stone, building materials, and constructed artifacts, presenting works as if they were historical relics, but rendered in the tranquil, easily digested pastels of trendy au courant design. Though shown individually, like totems, the sculptural array resembles a cityscape consisting of materials such as brick and the pink marble common in local apartment complexes, many studded with faux pre-Hispanic artifacts. This subtle sense of humor buoys works throughout the display. In the next room, one walks among a handful of similar pieces, crowding with them instead of beholding them. Mercier’s practice describes a world falsely assembled from the past and present; ironically, it looks much like the masks we put over just about everything.

Alexandra Pechman

Héctor Zamora

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey (MARCO)
Zuazua y Padre Jardón
September 1–January 7

Héctor Zamora, Ordem e Progresso (Order and Progress), 2017, video, color, sound, 3 minutes 4 seconds.

In “Re/Vuelta,” his first retrospective in Mexico, Héctor Zamora presents a selection of twenty-four works, including installations, architectural models, photographs, videos, a live performance, documentation of performances, and sculptures. The Spanish word revuelta refers to both a riot and a revolt, and—with the addition of the slash—to a “re/turn,” signifying a return for the artist to questions around labor that frequently emerge in his work and to his native country.

By focusing on manual production, Zamora here proffers an incisive critique of the changes brought on by the expansion of neoliberal capitalism. Particularly effective is his use of short videos to document public actions from the past, as in O Abuso da História (The Abuse of History), 2014, in which dozens of potted tropical plants are thrown out the windows of a colonial mansion to shatter and accumulate on the ground below, and Ordem e Progresso (Order and Progress), 2017, in which immigrant workers from former Portuguese colonies destroy wooden boats installed in a museum.

Though Zamora has exhibited internationally—including at the Venice Biennale in 2009—he is perhaps best known for his 2004 work Paracaidista (Urban Squatter), a parasitic structure that he built on the facade of the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil in Mexico City. In the last room of this exhibition, we find the platforms and structures used for the performance work, Re/Vuelta, 2017, which featured dozens of local percussionists rhythmically mashing nieve de garrafa, a traditional Mexican ice cream. The piece’s carnivalesque atmosphere—characteristic of the show as a whole—is a reminder that a return to traditional materials and processes need not be staid or tired, but instead could be just the revolt required to upend market-based logic.

John Pluecker