Critics’ Picks

Gabriel de la Mora, B-53, 2015, vintage radio speaker fabric, each 20 x 8 1/2".

Gabriel de la Mora, B-53, 2015, vintage radio speaker fabric, each 20 x 8 1/2".

New York

Gabriel de la Mora

The Drawing Center
35 Wooster Street
July 15–September 2, 2016

Gabriel de la Mora cleverly reconfigures collections of found objects scavenged from flea markets in Mexico City, where he lives, into pristine minimal installations that uncannily give form to experiences, processes, and forces that are otherwise nearly invisible. His current exhibition fills the space’s back wall with what initially appears to be a salon-style hang of small-scale monochromes, two small maroon panels, and the occasional glint of gold punching through a monotony of blacks, tans, and grays. Upon closer inspection, these works are revealed to be fabric screens from old speakers. The display is mirrored along a central vertical axis on the main wall and continues in a neat row along each flanking wall. Its symmetry wittily echoes that of traditional stereo technology.

Each matching pair is marked with a distinct imprint, the afterimage of a sustained encounter between the specific architecture of the speaker that housed the screen and the countless sounds that passed through it over decades of regular use. While the variety of textures, weaves, colors, and sizes of the fabric reveals the rich material history and shifting trends in stereo speaker design and technology, the display’s clinical precision tempers any simple nostalgia for its golden era. These are mute witnesses, visual inscriptions of collective aural pasts. Each is also a portrait, a biography of its user(s) told through the traces of their listening choices. The accidental forms sometimes cohere into a face or mask, suggesting a spectral presence.

With little in the way of didactics, the installation remains almost illegible as an archive—it is, however, more intelligible through other faculties. It challenges us to glean meaning and information from deposition patterns of particulate matter shaped by vibrations, waves, rhythms, and melodies, to begin to comprehend other syntaxes and grammars that, though imperceptible, are definitely present and consequential.