El Nopal Press is and has been one of the key critical spaces of autonomy in the artistic production of the last decades in the US-Mexico border. El Nopal was founded by Francesco Siqueiros in 1990 with the knowledge that a publishing house has the capacity of generating attention to and expanding on what is possible as a participant in the politics of culture. The fifteen artists selected for inclusion in this exhibition reveal a fertile ground for collaboration – expressly acknowledging the productive, political, and personal exchange that is the magic of editions printed at El Nopal Press. During this era of transition and upheaval, El Nopal Press’ concerted and sustained effort to explore the politics of culture is more important than ever.
El Nopal: Selections is an exhibition constructed around several series of print collaborations undertaken by Francesco Siqueiros with some of the more relevant and inquisitive artists of our time. Be it the exploration of materials, cultural exchange, artistic inquiry, technique, or pure beauty, each artist brought their own particular perspective to blend with the unique talents of Siqueiros at El Nopal. Artists included are Lisa Adams, John Baldessari, Mark Bennett, Derek Boshier, Anita Bunn, Dr. Lakra, Harry Gamboa Jr., Roger Herman, Solomon Huerta, Glenn Kaino, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, Rubén Ortiz Torres, Rene Petropolous, Analia Saban, and Liat Yossifor.
While each project brings its own particular perspective, of particular note are the four lithographs created with John Baldessari from 2010 to 2015 – including 2015’s Red Slipper featuring an embossed rendering of Baldessari’s worn red shoe. Four prints by Analia Saban set the stage for an inquiry into the intersection of material, technique, and uniqueness. The series of monotypes by Lisa Adams continue this meditation on the nature of the unique via variations within the same composition.
Works by Anita Bunn explore via the subtle beauty and timeless quality of nature, and question of what is indigenous via her Native Plants of the region. Two prints by Dr. Lakra bring elements from the tradition of ink on skin into the fine art format of these prints made with ink on paper. Harry Gamboa Jr. investigates cultural appropriation via a mash up of color, photography, the manipulated image, and text. Mark Bennet’s imagined floorplan of the Bat Cave is a playful expression of the power of imagination immortalized in print. Like Los Angeles, the city he now calls home, Roger Herman’s sets of multi-colored floral woodcuts evoke the multiplicity of techniques and traditions embodied in his artistic practice. Solomon Huerta’s portrait head has us ponder the very nature of what constitutes a portrait, while Glenn Kaino literally explodes our object-based culture to reveal the complexities underneath.
The singular print by Pablo Ortiz Monasterio echoes the naturalist studies of Blosfeldt through the conceptual lens of gesture at once surrealist and pop: the inclusion of the text Es y No Es. Rene Petropolous shares a playful take on the cross-border relationship From the United States to Mexico in her single mixed-media print. Three works by Rubén Ortiz-Torres were selected from the several projects he embarked on with El Nopal. From the gesture both conceptual and poetic of Sangre y Aceite, to the politics of Zamba del Che Re-Mix where Che’s arrest fingerprints are presented alongside the set taken for Ruben’s immigration, to the poignant Flag printed with ink made from a burnt American flag, Ortiz-Torres perhaps most fully reflects the intentions of El Nopal. Liat Yossifor’s single image creates on paper and via lithography, a document of the movements, gestures, and intention inherent in her artistic actions. And last, but not least, is the hauntingly beautiful and lyrical print of Holographic Weeds made with the Copenhagen collective, The Winter Office.