Smack Mellon is pleased to present I come to this place, a group exhibition that explores abstraction in art as a chain of histories that align, unpack, communicate, and translate connections. Twelve artists present their sensibilities through installations, multi-media work, paintings, and sound. The exhibition is curated by Eva Mayhabal Davis and is on view June 15–July 28, 2019.
Each participating artist has contributed work that explore lines, rhythm, and place. Individually and together they communicate with foundational materials that uphold values of storytelling, nature, and spirituality, and ultimately honoring ancestral history and Indigenous presence.
Taking inspiration from each other, artists communicate through visual language, personal connections and their responses to contemporary experiences. The works and letters of the avant-garde modernist Joaquin Torres-Garcia was the prompt for the exhibition of these twelve artists. His works are an emphasis and reflection on “the spirit of synthesis,” which he defined as the synchronization of the ancestral and the modern. The work of artists today are a synthesis that threads back to modernism, but most notably, there is reflection on art beyond the constraints of art historical terms. Art is embedded in the quotidian and in mundane actions. Torres-Garcia explored his own concepts of synthesis when he referenced Andean iconography from his Uruguayan homeland. He inserted the geometry, patterns, and abstractions not only into painting but also into the playful design of toys and games. At its time the tangibility of the work was a meld of modernist style with a personal South American lexicon. During his studies abroad in France and the U.S., his experience was globalized and Westernized, in a parallel that is still experienced today.
Contemporary artists have been tasked with the construction of a visual language that weaves fragmented histories and present stories. This visual language inspires over time and lives through the everyday, teaching history and place. The beautiful and profound teaches us to build community and take care of the world. I come to this place reflects on the precarious nature of history inviting artists that explore new technologies, reconsider material, and bring awareness to place. These actions synthesize cultural production through the ages, connecting spirits and human ideas from the past and what will be the future.
Artist Iván Gaete carefully dissects his consumption of materials. Using the newspaper he reads everyday, Gaete transforms the New York Times into objects to be consumed. Simultaneously his installation becomes an homage to the power of words and the transformation of information from trees to paper. The economics of resources examines the politics of production that looks at raw materials as cultural signifiers. There is a direct hand imprint of labor, intimacy, and making. The work of Mary A. Valverde reflects on this act of creating, a cascade of repetition that embodies her focus and ritual of making as precise and calculated. In a more jubilant vain, the strands of papel picado by Blanka Amezkua physically outline the entrance area and welcomes celebration into the gallery. Their decorative quality is intricate with imagery of the cities in which the artist has resided. In this way, as each papel picado waves in the space, it honors the migration that brought the artist and the viewers to this place.
Careful consideration of materials extends into a conversation with technologies because like paper, technology is human made and used as a tool. Painter Ricardo Cabret uses his training in computer science to experiment with lines and movements through graphics but always returning to landscape painting. His interest in binary systems is rooted in nature, considering the building blocks of creation as numbers, lines, and natural elements. Similarly, artists Ginger Dunnill and Demian DinéYazhi´ contemplate sound and words through a meditative soundscape. Dunnill’s audio piece incorporate words, movement, and synthesizers that echo the meditation of a landscape. In a collective video work, Ginger Dunnill, Cannupa Hanska Luger, Dylan McLaughlin tell a story about land through a bird’s-eye perspective, capturing drone footage. Their documentation is a slow meditation on the lines of the land, bedrock, and rivers in contrast to the pipeline industrial complex. The work of Ana de la Cueva also follows landmarks that have been incised by humans, marks that are not one with the land but dictated by a larger global industry. The lines embroidered in her work are the national borders across the Americas.
While considering materials and histories the object is a vessel of ideas that artists construct and reconstruct. Marela Zacarias uses recycled window frames that she refashions and transforms in response to the space that her forms enter. Evoking the intertwining of history and the present, the architecture and the spirit of her forms appear to meld together and protrude into the space. In the pieces by Ronny Quevedo, the mapping of ancient objects, their outline and fragments narrate a violent pursuit of wealth from the past and present. His use of muslin and pattern paper used for clothing, create a surface that connects the body to the objects. Likewise, Glendalys Medina is heavily influenced by motifs, forms, and geometry that create a visual language that evoke an emotion and curiosity. By using ceramics, the depth of marks is tangible and the forms appear heavy with expression.
Future generations will look back on our visual vocabulary and see the links from further past to their present as embodied in form, composition, and materials translated as rituals and customs with human, spiritual, and natural origins. These works reveal the persistence of ever present familial and spiritual ties to see and experience forms that interconnect in everyday life.
We acknowledge the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the Canarsie and Lenni Lenape peoples, among many other peoples, on which we are learning, creating and organizing today.