What would it mean to tame art? And, what or whom would this taming of art serve? The group exhibition Caza—a word that in Spanish means “searching” or “hunting,” and is a homophone of “casa” (home)—is an attempt to respond to such questions, or an occasion to at least consider them. To explore some possibilities, Caza looks at the place of art within a domestic space and, specifically, in familiar environments outside of what is conventionally deemed as art. The exhibition includes artworks by Rochele Gomez, Margaret Lee and Alejandra Seeber. It took place at The Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York from July 13 to September 25, 2016.
The decorative is implicitly cited in the selected artworks in this exhibition, and conveniently so, for taming involves a process of domestication. They picture a worldly knowing—an academicism, to say the least—and embody a taste—in other words, a class—as forms of content to work with, not to solely depict. Gomez’s work included in the exhibition centers on making art in and about her childhood home, a space unlike the ascetic environments housing contemporary art. Lee’s installations of artistic arrangements, as well as her painted photographs of water devices for the home, stage a process of styled refinement. Seeber’s paintings portray fragments and abstractions of interior spaces inclusive of art displays. While emptied of any clear ethnic signs, their works are succinctly interposed with cultural expressions, relying on artistic emblems and gestures to face a sense of reserve and feeling of bewilderment. Their works act as visual metonyms for art, playfully accentuating absurdities over the presumptuousness of artistic conventions.
That portrayals of modern art and design appear in several artworks here hints at the notion of received ideas being stripped from their function. The artworks reference the ghostly presence of modernist schooling—out of place and yet welcomed, modernism comes to haunt. In this regard, art’s taming could be less a matter of advancing prevailing ideas than of unlearning them, and perhaps this entails intensification over simplification. Or maybe art’s taming could be a process of embracing difference to acknowledge singularities. If these kinds of taming of art could ensue and be valuable, beyond pleasing the eye or elucidating a status quo, would it help create bonds between dissimilar communities? In their own way, the artists of Caza tame art for various purposes, from reconciling with cultural backgrounds, to assessing the reduction of function to style, to resisting classification. Regardless, it is to communicate a felt structure of feeling through the language of visual art.
Caza is part of The Neighbors, a series of consecutive, small-scale exhibitions of contemporary art at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, featuring work by Firelei Baez, Andrea Bowers, Rochele Gomez, Ignacio Gonzalez Lang, Margaret Lee, Irvin Morazan and Alejandra Seeber. For each exhibition, Gerardo Madera designs a gallery leaflet out of his Common Satisfactory Standard Print Shop. Central to The Neighbors is an investigation of the artistic concerns and visual languages dealing with identity, an issue tackled less as a personal exploration of ethnicity alone than as an examination of the ways in which social classes are constructed and their divisions purportedly manifested. As the title may suggest, the series explores, on the one hand, shared yet delimited territories; on the other hand, the fact that the participating artists in the exhibition are in close proximity to—closely related, perhaps, although not exactly inhabiting or native of—the communities that they are working with or representing in their work.
The work featured in The Neighbors is characterized by a re-working of an existing grammar in the field of visual arts. This formally entails structural ruptures, say, within the picture plane of a work. It likewise entails a conceptual porosity, for example, with a work’s explicit multivalent form in relation to an idea. These aesthetic ruptures and porosity happen even when the artwork’s creation entails acknowledging something that could be called a willing mediatization—an awareness of dominant histories, their institutions and agents, preferences and tastes. At times, some of the topics confronted by the participating artists of The Neighbors address a sense of belonging; at other times, a feeling of up-rootedness; in some instances, a state of resistance. In any case, their work sensibly evokes these concerns as they are played-out colloquially, in singular ways through visual art, rather than how these issues are commonly portrayed in media outlets.
The Neighbors is guest-curated by Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy for The Bronx Museum of the Arts.