Critics’ Picks

View of “Guadalupe Rosales: Legends Never Die, A Collective Memory,” 2018.

New York

Guadalupe Rosales

Aperture Gallery
547 West 27th Street 4th Floor
September 20–October 20

The photographic archive has emerged as a crucial site for reenvisioning contested histories, from independence movements to war and even nightlife. When Malick Sidibé first opened his studio in 1960s Bamako, his portraits of young people captured the transformations and euphoria that characterized the club scene in postindependence Mali. Here, Guadalupe Rosales does the same for youth culture in a time of political turmoil in 1990s Los Angeles—post riots and Proposition 187—amid the preponderance of negative representations of brown bodies and the undocumented in the media then and today.

Rosales draws from an extensive crowdsourced archive of photographs and ephemera that are part of Latinx youth culture and nightlife from this period, of which the artist herself was a part. The show begins with a blown-up black-and-white portrait of two beautiful teenage girls seated cheek to cheek in a photo booth, their eyebrows thinly arched. Collaged adjacent is a photograph of four young women posing on the shoulder of an expressway. Nearby, at the same scale as the portraits, is a photograph of a quotidian East Los Angeles nightscape, featuring attached two-story homes and electrical lines receding into the distance.

Displayed in vitrines and directly on the gallery’s walls are a variety of printed material and objects. Colorful fliers for party crews, with names like Sweet ’n’ Sensual and Exotik Illusionz, are displayed alongside Street Beat magazines, clothing, and wallet-size “star shot photos” of friends, couples, and families. There is also a memorial to the artist’s slain cousin. Rosales’s exhibition is a living archive, one that that she has dictated should not be donated to any private institutions due to concerns over ownership and accessibility. On the opening day of the show, reflecting on the people for whom this project is a collective memory, Rosales stated, “We are LA.”