Report: San Diego

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Themes of identity, economy and place are explored in a series of concurrent exhibitions on view at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego through November 27, 2016. Highlighting the region’s bi-national and Latin American art traditions are installations from MCASD’s permanent collection by Moris and Ruben Ochoa; Papel Chicano Dos: Works on Paper from The Collection of Cheech Marin; and DeLIMITations: A Survey of the 1821 United States-Mexico Border. The re-installation of previously commissioned works alongside the multiplicity of voices brought together in Marin’s collection and DeLIMITations‘ border-crossing collaboration underscores the diversity in contemporary art practices while challenging essentialist views of Latino art.

Moris’ installation Beautiful Landscape 7: Beatings, Hard Bread, and Cold-Water Baths created for MCASD’s groundbreaking 2010 exhibition Viva la Revolucion dominates the entry gallery. Tarps with images of the Mexican flag, a suburban home, and brick wall provide a makeshift enclosure. At the center, a tower of cardboard boxes spills over exposing a mattress covered with Resistol 5000-a glue notoriously used as a drug by homeless children to stave off hunger reflecting the impoverishment found in Mexico City where Moris was born and raised. Saint Jude (the patron of lost causes) statues stand atop stacks of tabloid newspapers strewn with blackened bread highlight a desolate urban landscape.

“Beautiful Landscape 7: beatings, hard bread and cold-water baths,” 2010
Moris, mixed media, dimensions variable.
Collection MCASD, Gift of Victor M. Zamudio-Taylor

Like Moris, Mexican-American LA-based Ruben Ochoa also uses inexpensive accessible materials, but explores far different thematic concerns. Ochoa’s stunning watching, waiting, commiserating commissioned in 2010 for MCASD’s downtown Farrell Gallery responds to its open industrial layout, exposed beams, and clerestory windows, dramatically traversing the space. The work consists of an 80-foot-long corridor, comprised of 11 individual sculptures composed of rebar drilled directly into the gallery’s concrete floor suspending wood shipping pallets overhead. Though overtly referencing Minimalism, the artist’s use of rebar additionally reflects urban infrastructure and the shipping pallets reference notions of labor and the transportation of goods. Curator Jill Dawsey humorously describes the installation as a drawing in space reminiscent of sci-fi creatures, while also noting how Ochoa draws on his background in construction to encourage a new way of thinking about industrial materials.

“Soy Chicana,” 2013
CiCi Segura Gonzalez
mixed media on gessoed paper
36″ × 104″
Photo: courtesy of the Cheech Marin Collection

Papel Chicano Dos: Works on Paper from The Collection of Cheech Marin represents an expansive range of 24 established and emerging Chicano artists. Marin started collecting in the late 1970s and maintains a longstanding relationship with MCASD-the first art institution to feature his collection. The highlight of the exhibition features a massive salon-style wall including work from the likes of SD-based Raul Guerrero and LA-artist Glugio “Gronk” Nicandro. Guerrero’s Coco Club Tijuana, (1990), a small mixed-media drawing, packs punch with bright layers of color and energetic movement capturing Tijuana nightlife. Gronk’s distinctive graphic style is immediately recognizable: Chip on her Shoulder (1994), presents a woman’s portrait with a skull utilizing a bold red and black palette. CiCi Segura Gonzalez’s Soy Chicana (2013), a surreal mixed-media standout explores European and Mexican roots that often make up the Chicano experience. Influenced by a multitude of sources from modernism to graffiti art-the works on display encapsulate the cultural and social backdrop of a rich heritage.

“DELIMITATIONS Monument 01,” 2015, Marcos Ramírez ERRE and David Taylor
Color photograph, framed: 32½ × 40″
Photo: Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
Museum purchase, courtesy: of the artists.

DeLIMITations: A Survey of the 1821 United States-Mexico Border represents the culmination of Arizona-based photographer David Taylor and Tijuana-based sculptor Marcos Ramirez Erre’s collaborative work since 2014. Considering the 2016 presidential election, DeLIMITations encourages a re-thinking of hot-button topics immigration and the border. Setting out to trace the historical 1821 border between Mexico and the US-a time when California was part of the Mexican union, Taylor and Erre sought to start a new conversation about the permeable nature of the border drawing attention to what the border would resemble if the 1821 border from the coast of Oregon to the Gulf of Mexico had been realized. The artists traveled the Western US territories installing 47 sheet metal obelisk markers, documenting the result through photography and a film by Jose Inerzia covering the course of their 31 days demarcating the historical border. Highlighting the shifting nature of territories from a historical perspective draws attention to the fluid nature of identity. The exhibitions at MCASD broaden the dialogue surrounding what it means to be not only Mexican-American, but American.

Lead image:
“watching, waiting, commiserating,” 2010, Ruben Ochoa
Rebar and wooden pallets, 17 x 70 x 15 ft.
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
Joint purchase, MCASD with proceeds from Art Auction 2010
and the Orange County Museum of Art with funds provided
through the prior gift of the Helen Wilcoxen Memorial Fund.