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Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
2685 S La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034 | T 310 838 6000

Seth Augustine

Mash Ups

Dec 11 - Jan 15, 2011

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Seth Augustine


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press release



December 11, 2010 – January 15, 2011
Artist Reception: Saturday, December 11, 6-9 PM

Luis De Jesus is very pleased to present Seth Augustine in his first solo exhibition at the gallery, titled "Mash-Ups", on view from December 11, 2010 through January 15, 2011. An artist's reception will be held on Saturday, December 11, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Situated within a cultural milieu where actions, objects, and behaviors are charged with meaning, Seth Augustine's art process begins with intervention--either in the form of social experimentation or public performance. Parameters help define the limits of the interventions and generate an open space where unexpected outcomes can develop. Informed by the discoveries and insights gleaned from the consequences of these actions, Augustine then articulates further artworks. These new pieces, often a hybrid of traditional categories and contemporary strategies, traverse a wide range of formats and genres including artifact, sculpture, photography, installation, video, and drawing.

The works presented in "Mash-Ups" are based on Augustine's own experiences--including performances, collaborations, and social experimentations--conducted in China over the course of two extended visits in late 2008 and early 2009, and chart the complexities of the present-day configuration of the American-Chinese interplay. Shaped by the codes and classifications of one's culture, personal convictions and perspectives can seem quite natural and even invisible until they are pressed up against a different culture with its own unique behavioral patterns and social histories. Encouraging physical engagement, Augustine's artworks thus immerse the viewer/participant within a highly subjective space of contrasts, conundrums, and misperceptions.

These ideas are central to "The Borders Within", a collaborative project and performance by Seth Augustine and Shanghai-based artist Shi Yong, documented in video and photographs. Beginning on a Monday, Augustine was blindfolded and taken by Shi Yong to an unknown location somewhere on the outskirts of Shanghai. Blindfold removed, Augustine was confronted by a factory of Chinese laborers who were unaware of the motivations behind his arrival. Performing hard, manual labor, and unable to speak the language, Augustine worked, lived, and ate with the Chinese laborers while earning the standard weekly wage of $48.00. However, unlike his co-workers who see their families only once a year, Augustine remained at the site for five days. Over this period of time he experienced a tiny fraction of their lives and attempted to find common ground with them.

Another work was inspired by a brief interaction that Augustine had with a Chinese vendor at a fruit market. As he explains:

"It was late at night and there wasn't anyone else around. I approached the counter and handed him the fruit I wanted to purchase. He reached out to take the fruit, but instead he gently caressed my arm hair. As he did, I noticed that he had extraordinarily long fingernails. A moment later I gave him some money for the fruit, neither of us said a word, and I went on my way. After this encounter I started noticing many Chinese men all around me who had long fingernails."

In response to this interaction, Augustine asymmetrically decorated his body, leaving one American arm untouched and transforming the other into a Chinese arm over the course of 100 days. The performance is documented with dozens of photographs in the form of a flip-book, titled "Marking Time."

Seth Augustine received his B.F.A. (2000) from Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art and Planning, and his M.F.A. (2008) from the University of California, San Diego. In 2008 he was awarded an Art Matters Foundation grant which offered him the opportunity to travel to China and collaborate with Shanghai-based artist Shi Yong. Seth Augustine's work has been presented in numerous exhibitions and venues, including: "Thames Town," Songjiang New City, Shanghai, China; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE); Torrance Art Museum; SoFA Gallery, Indiana University; Sibley Fine Arts Gallery, Cornell University; Franconia Sculpture Park, Minnesota; California Center for the Arts, Escondido; and the Sundown Salon (Fritz Haeg Studios), Los Angeles.