ILuis De Jesus Seminal Projects is very pleased to present the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, This is my Country, opening Friday, September 7 through October 20, 2007. Participating artists include Chris Ballantyne, Chris Barnard, Miyoshi Barosh, Graham Caldwell, Cathy de la Cruz (UCSD MFA candidate), Martin Durazo, Marcelino Goncalves, Laurel Nakadate, Andrew Schoultz, and Jason Sherry (SDSU grad and 2007-2008 San Diego Art Prize nominee). An artist’s reception will be held on Friday, September 7, from 6-10 p.m.
This is my Country examines some of the ways younger artists are looking at themselves and the world around them in order to investigate issues of identity—of a country or territory, a physical body, gender or sex, or an idea or belief, for example—and how these definitions have evolved beyond earlier constructs from last 20 or 30 years. The myriad results and subtle interpretations reveal identity to be a subject that continues to garner tremendous attention and relevance for today’s artists. In a sense, what seems to be most evident by the works in this exhibition is that many of the same issues that preoccupied artists in the recent past are still being mined today by their younger counterparts. Likewise, what is most strikingly different is the tone and stance that these artists and their works take.
If the woman’s and gay rights movements of the 1970s and 80s spurred the development of two very important branches of artistic thought and practice, then it could be said that the 21st century has brought a renewed awareness to ideas of the physical body, sexuality and gender as signposts of the self. In the works of Laurel Nakadate and Marcelino Goncalves we are presented with rather flippant and cheeky images that are in marked contrast to the stringently defiant and demanding tone, not to mention—sharply political edge—of a lot of earlier feminist and gay art. A photographer, filmmaker and video artist, Nakadate’s photographs reveal a young woman very much in control and at ease with her sexual identity and power. Taken during a cross-country train ride and set against a flat and rather bleak interior winter landscape, the images depict the artist hand-tossing her personal underwear (both bras and panties) out the window—a true document of freedom of expression and humor. In Los Angeles-based artist Marcelino Goncalves’ oil paintings we are presented with images culled from a personal photo album found at a Los Angeles yard sale. The works depict a gay “clone” couple, circa late 1970s-early 80s, in the intimacy of their home—in one scene, doing lines of cocaine at a kitchen counter and, in the other, sitting quietly in the garden by the pool. The larger meaning of these works becomes more apparent when placed in the context of the AIDS pandemic.
The idea of family, home, and consumer culture is explored in the works of filmmaker and video artist, Cathy de la Cruz, in the paintings and sculpture of Chris Ballantyne, and the multimedia sculptural installations of Martin Durazo. De la Cruz, a UCSD MFA candidate, presents a video homage to her family—a “home” video seemingly shot and pieced together from various separate footage. In fact, the very retro-70s looking video (with original family “cast members”, grainy film effects and colors to match) is a recreation of her immediate family’s most memorable recollections of her own childhood. For her family, and others like them, who never had the privilege of being documented for posterity during the 1980s and 90s home videos craze, De la Cruz has wittingly provided us with the next best thing—a very touching recreation.
In Chris Ballantyne’s works one can observe emotional tone, meaning, and narrative information conveyed through mise en scène. His work offers insight into the American landscape and spaces drawn from memory—somewhere between urban and rural—that have engendered their own set of rules, regulations and codes for human interaction and behavior. On closer inspection his surfaces capture a stark suburban world full of human interference yet empty of human presence. Empty pools, white houses with picket fenses, highway overpasses, and the ocean tides in reverse motion, are among the subjects employed in exploring complex relationships between people and their surroundings. Chris utilizes our expectations of these things to further create an alien landscape, providing subtle commentary on our obsession with land ownership and domination—of the land, and of each other.
The idea of “obsession” is also employed by Martin Durazo, whose work is an ongoing exploration of the age-old human polemic: humans’ ignorance of their own mortality and the reconciliation of joy, pleasure, and satisfaction in the face of pain and suffering. In small assemblages to large-scale multi-media installations that utilize light boxes, diffused lighting and coordinating design elements typical of retail presentations, Durazo’s “reclassifications” of mass-produced objects replicate the desire/satiation process of consumer culture. His work examines the glorification and “glamourization” of drugs, music, and the beauty industry in our culture as metaphors of race, gender, sexuality, and economic bias.