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A New Generation Of Artists Imagines A Dismantled Future
A postcolonial, post-gender world is imagined in a new group exhibition at The Front gallery in San Ysidro, featuring work from LaRissa Rogers, Fox Maxy, Yasmine Kasem, Carolina Montejo and more.
Thursday, July 1, 2021
Credit: Stacey Evans / Welcome Gallery
"The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house."
That's one of late American writer Audre Lorde's more famous quotes — and it's an idea that crossborder curator Alan Luna turns to when attempting to explain what is going on with gender and a younger generation of individuals working to disrupt long-held oppressions.
"And We Will Sing In The Tall Grass Again: postcolonial futurities at the end of gender" opens at The Front Arte and Cultura on Thursday, July 1, 2021 with a reception at 6 p.m.
Gallery hours: Tuesday through Thursday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sidro Saturdays: View the exhibition on the third Saturday of each month from 5-10 p.m.
With San Diego-based artist and curator Julie Choo, Luna co-curated "And We Will Sing in the Tall Grass Again," a new group exhibition at The Front gallery in San Ysidro.
"It's a construct," Luna said of gender. "Difference is something that is important to humans, and it allows us to categorize and organize the world around us. Bodies are all different, but that doesn't mean that it has to be this, like, rigid category that exists right now in our society."
Back to Audre Lorde. The way that these constructs will be dismantled may not be through words and categories, because we don't have the language for it yet, claims Luna. But we do have art.
"Part of the goal that we have with this exhibition is: what could the future look like?" Luna said.
Choo said that they were approached by Francisco Morales, gallery director at the Front, to put together a group show about nonbinary identities, but the idea grew.
"We see the term of nonbinary as being like a political compass, or like a North star, or creating these clear futures of this blurriness, and messiness where things — not just gender but also race, linear time, and borders and the way that we see land as being territory — those also kind of being blurred and not so rigid and stuck," Choo said.
The exhibition title, "And We Will Sing in the Tall Grass Again" is a splash of optimism — an imagined party at the end of a struggle, whether it be a climate disaster, a crash of the capitalist economy or something else. But the struggle is there, and Choo believes that it's her generation and younger who will shoulder the recovery.
"With the pandemic and late-stage capitalism, it does feel like the end of the world. And young people are experiencing that and will be the people who take the torch and have to rebuild the world and create something from scratch," Choo said.
Several works in the show also turn to the past and ancestry, which Choo and Luna say is an important part of young people's relationship with their identities, their bodies and their futures.
The exhibition includes art by thirteen artists, all working in a broad range of formats and styles. The artists are all primarily based in the Southern California and border region.
One work, "A Poetic of Living," by Los Angeles-based artist LaRissa Rogers, takes soil from two places with ties to slavery in her hometown of Charlottesville, VA. One was a plantation with unmarked slave graves, and another near a hanging tree.
In this exhibition, she'll also mix in soil from the Tijuana border region, blending her own histories and mourning with that of the plight of the border.
In the gallery, the soil is shaped into bodies, like graves.
By the end of the exhibition, the bodies will lose shape and dissolve into the ground, where celosia spouts will have grown — a plant native to East Africa.
"I think that's an immensely beautiful and poetic comment and observation on the body and identity and material and the land and us in relation to the land," Luna said.
Ipai Kumeyaay and Payómkawichum filmmaker Fox Maxy's 45-minute film "Maat Means Land," is also part of the exhibition.
"It sort of centers on these beautiful collages of San Diego and the land, and also not just the little beautiful tiny details, but also just images of drones and things just like flying over the sky," Choo said of Maxy's film. "So it's like this very apocalyptic sort of thing, but it's also a documentary, like it's very real."
The film aims to unravel what it means to be from a place, how identities can be formed around a place, and what connections people and communities actually have to the land.
Another piece is Armando Cortés' three-channel video work documenting his use of earthenware vessels, and the artist's interactions with them — including braiding them into his long hair.
The artist Elsolderac will also show a series of paintings that embody his experience as LGBTQ+ in Tijuana.
"There's this vision of the queer future that is sometimes a little saccharin and too sweet and too positive," Luna said. "I really like how we chose works that are also kind of abject, like [Elsolderac's] work. It's not this like, liberal vision of the gay future that's like, Oh the gays can get married now, we have white picket fences and we're going to get brunch and go to a drag queen bingo later on — this very commodified, consumerist version of queer culture that is very exclusionary of a lot of people."
In Elsolderac's work, the more self-abasing side of this culture comes through, suggesting a brokenness of body and a grittier journey that was more about self-loathing than about cheerful self-discovery, said Luna.
Morales, the gallery director, said that building a show with two emerging curators was an enlightening experience.
"We created this new methodology to work as a team, rather than the only master curator. So I think that is very interesting as a gallery as an organization just to have that freedom of playing — playing with artists that are very young, with curators that are very young, that are going to definitely refresh our minds," Morales said.
For Luna and Choo, making new tools for showing art is essential — and the point.
"You can't have an exhibition on anarchist postcolonialism if the methods of curating the exhibition are themselves not postcolonial and more equally distributed," Luna said.
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