Critics’ Picks

View of “Xochitla,” 2020. Photo: Matthew Farrar.

View of “Xochitla,” 2020. Photo: Matthew Farrar.

Los Angeles

Anabel Juarez

Emma Gray HQ
Private residence near Santa Monica/Venice border. Please email for address:
March 14–April 30, 2020

A few days before Governor Newsom locked down California, I pulled the top down on my little red coupe and drove to Santa Monica to visit Anabel Juarez’s larger-than-life ceramics. By then, proprietor Emma Gray was half-facetiously promoting the show by referencing the open-air setting of Five Car Garage, which is indeed housed in a roomy garage that welcomes rays from the sun-bleached alley.

The outdoor-ish venue is particularly suited for Juarez’s exhibition “Xochitla,” whose title broadly translates as “place for flowers.” The show, a collaboration with Lefebvre & Fils in Paris, is populated by her brightly imagined fusions of cacti and dahlias. Both plant families are civic icons—the Mexican flag bears an image of an eagle sitting on a cactus eating a snake; the dahlia has been the country’s national flower since the early 1960s. Juarez’s riffs on them are irreverent abstractions that exude glamour without froideur.

The word icon is easily wrung of its semantic juices. In civics, the icon functions like a religious talisman, a whisper of an image spurring contemplation of higher ideals (whatever those are at the moment!). In fashion, the icon solicits only worship for itself. Juarez collapses the two worlds, treating fashion as vessel, both icon and idea. The buds of “Xochitla” are not weighed down by politics, though. They resemble kids’ crayon drawings of flowers, if they’d trekked to the big city to get wardrobed by Niki de Saint Phalle. The patterns and hues of the sturdy blooms cheekily reference sartorial tropes: Dalia Azul, 2018, sports Marimekko stripes that resemble the candy-colored warps and wefts of handwoven flowers and purses hawked by street vendors in touristy parts of Mexico and on Olvera Street in LA. Its alter ego, Dalia Azul (Winter), 2018, dons a chic black-and-white palette for colder days. A catwalk-shaped dais supports tinier, rainbow-hued buds strutting their stuff with the same aplomb as their towering counterparts.