Los Angeles

Guadalupe Rosales, Latinas Mapping the City, ca. 1994–1998, 2018, ink-jet print on self-adhesive vinyl, 96 × 72".

Guadalupe Rosales, Latinas Mapping the City, ca. 1994–1998, 2018, ink-jet print on self-adhesive vinyl, 96 × 72".

Guadalupe Rosales

Vincent Price Art Museum

Guadalupe Rosales, Latinas Mapping the City, ca. 1994–1998, 2018, ink-jet print on self-adhesive vinyl, 96 × 72".

On first encountering Guadalupe Rosales’s Untitled (all works 2018), a wall-based sculpture of a pager dangling from a string of pastel plastic raver beads, I felt the strange urge to look up the artist’s birth year. Here’s what I found: Rosales was born in 1980, two years before I was. While an artist’s age is often of trivial concern, it’s important here: As rough contemporaries, we have both seen telecommunications technologies shape and reshape our lived worlds, especially the experience of being a teenager in the 1990s. When we were in elementary school—she in Los Angeles, I in Austin—the only people who regularly used pagers seemed to be doctors, or maybe principals and drug dealers. But by middle school and high school, pagers were de rigueur (I remember arguing with my parents for one—they prevailed). Untitled struck me, then, as an earnest object. No post-internet irony here. Rosales takes a different, more rigorous tack with this installation, investing in the lush lifeways associated with objects such as pagers, party flyers, and glossy photographs. In short, she took me back—as much as she could take a white Jewish kid from Texas back to the Latinx communities of Los Angeles.

In her solo presentation at the Vincent Price Art Museum and her ongoing Instagram accounts of archival materials (@veteranas_and_rucas is dedicated to photos of Latina teenagers in Southern California and @map_pointz is an “official 90s party crew, raves, warehouse party archive”), Rosales engages with the fugitive nature of brown archives by displaying and disseminating the images and realia of histories rarely collected by educational, governmental, or archival institutions. Rosales has consistently leveraged the viral popularity of her social media accounts to facilitate open calls for more photographs related to these vibrant SoCal Latinx social scenes.

When taking these materials offline, Rosales has a gift for highlighting the types of images and objects that unlock welters of memories. For me, the most evocative detail was the airbrushed mushroom on the pager’s shell, which conjures a stoner kid whose aesthetic sensibility derives from any one of the more than six hundred Spencer’s stores sited within US malls. But for others it might have been the thrumping music (Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” was on when I saw the exhibition) playing just beyond a temporary wall plastered with party flyers and black-light posters. Or it might have been the nearby go-go platforms, in whose clear surfaces are encased photographs and flyers, and on top of which are piles of makeup, bottles of strong cheap perfume, and stacks of letters exchanged between “Lupe” Rosales and her familiars.

A two-channel projection thrown into the exhibition’s far corner proves Rosales to be an adroit taxonomist as well as a talented collector. Here are paired photographs of crews posing in cheesy photo studios, young women in bedrooms baroquely plastered with images of brown teen idols, and teenagers laughing, drinking, and driving. A small altar Rosales built in tribute to her cousin Ever Sanchez, who was murdered in a knife fight at the age of twenty, gives the installation gravitas. A memorial T-shirt draped over a plinth, a Virgin of Guadalupe candle, and a forty-ounce Mickey’s malt liquor are positioned alongside colored bandanas, Sanchez’s prom picture, and an open notebook filled with her cousin’s scrawled handwriting. If party flyers serve as evidence of living, the altar is the somber obverse—evidence of a life truncated but continuing to ripple into the present.

All around the installation are yellow, green, and pink glow-in-the-dark stick-on stars, another recognizable staple of teenage bedrooms. I thought more about Ever Sanchez. And as I dreamily gazed at the dull points of light, I wondered if Rosales had ever looked at these stars (or ones like them) in the same way that I did many times as a teenager: as if seeing deceased loved ones looking down from a stelliform sky, paging the living.