Los Angeles

Eduardo Consuegra, Untitled (2%), 2011, framed magazine pages, 24 1/2 x 26 1/2".

Eduardo Consuegra, Untitled (2%), 2011, framed magazine pages, 24 1/2 x 26 1/2".

Eduardo Consuegra

Richard Telles Fine Art

Eduardo Consuegra, Untitled (2%), 2011, framed magazine pages, 24 1/2 x 26 1/2".

Eduardo Consuegra’s Untitled (2%), 2011, is a tidy combine of two vintage magazines, each opened to an advertisement for food: The larger of the two offers a full spread for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes; the smaller single-page ad that overlays it advertises the Colombian chocolate bar Colombina Muuu. Though the ad copy for each is written in a different language, both campaigns depict a comparably wholesome, Anglo-looking boy roughly twelve years of age holding the product under the calligraphic type of each brand name. The juxtaposition is so effortless that to call the work a collage might be to drastically misread Consuegra’s simple and seemingly impassive process, one that, if anything, aims to diminish the artist’s hand—indeed, the printed pages are even left intact, still collated and bound inside their magazines. But the pairing of corn-fed North America and cocoa-abundant South America, as represented by these healthy young boys, can hardly be taken as neutral when proposed, as it was here, by a Colombian-born artist living in Los Angeles.

The ten works that comprised “Specter,” Consuegra’s second solo exhibition at Richard Telles Fine Art, all seem haunted by the artist’s own oblique autobiography, a personal history perhaps more telling for having been left unspoken. Consuegra’s precise and restrained dance around identity politics, or even the representation of “identity” as subject matter, was evident across the four collages and four untitled “paintings” (made with marker or house paint) as well as the two sculptural works included in the show. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that one of Consuegra’s pieces, Untitled (After FGT), 2011, would make explicit reference to Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Directly quoting the late artist’s series of brightly colored beaded curtains (familiar decor of Gonzalez-Torres’s Cuban culture) from the mid-1990s, Consuegra’s piece calls to mind the rhetoric surrounding the original—the evocation of bodily fluids (blood, urine), their suggestion of metaphorical transformation of whosoever passed through the strands. At Telles, Consuegra hung his curtain-homage from the ceiling, maximizing the gallery’s sixteen feet of vertical space. Yet at only four feet wide, the work was not so much a permeable room divider as a hanging sculpture, while its entangled strands of nickel-plated steel beads draped elegantly—and in spots, impenetrably—across one another and onto the floor. The installation had an imposing presence, but unlike Gonzalez-Torres’s showy, shimmering curtains, which cut clear across a room, Consuegra’s work felt cold and isolated, a strange cenotaph to absent artwork that already took as its subjects loss, mourning, and renewal.

There is a subtle politics to Consuegra’s interest in the margins between personal, cultural, and social history. Perhaps it could be said that his quiet, coded gestures reflect our new understanding of privacy: how and where identity and subjectivity are located, fabricated, encountered, transmitted, and protected in the all-access flux of the twenty-first century. This could certainly be the subtext of another piece on view, Untitled (Bound), 2011, a framed vintage magazine open to a page showing a woman having her bag searched in an airport security line. Though the photo reads as 1970s, it obviously resonates with a present-day experience that is so common it’s become a bad joke. But emerging alongside Big Brother’s increased liberties (and the diminution of ours) is a culture that has entirely redefined the limits of privacy and willing exposure; social media, for example, offers new instruments of voyeurism, exhibitionism, and the undisclosed. Identifying the lines between what’s visible and hidden seems to be precisely the aim of the artist’s abstractions, as is the case with two untitled works on paper (Untitled [Painting #9] and Untitled [Painting #10], both 2010) whose image content is the bleed-through of alcohol markers that have oversaturated folded sections of paper. Whether favoring the ephemeral or recycling meaning from a past milieu, Consuegra’s work destabilizes our understanding of any singular artistic identity, yet his impulse to keep those curtains drawn shut is as potent and unexpected as the desire to throw them open.

Catherine Taft