I visited MOCA's "Anna Maria Maiolino," (at MOCA Grand) a few days ago, during a time of particular turmoil in my personal life. I truly believe in the power of art to heal people (not physically), and thus in times of sorrow or conflict, I seek aesthetic comfort. Some people need cupcakes, some need wine, I need art.
The exhibition tapped on a couple of different themes within Maiolino's work, however, the one that struck me most was her intersectionality as it related in particular to immigration, language, and feminine oppression. A few nights prior an artist friend shared the story of Rania Mustafa Ali, a twenty-year-old Syrian immigrant trying to escape her home country. The video he shared (see video here), left the most unsettling sensation, it's not graphic in nature, yet the realities of immigrants are not easy to digest, especially when you can envision people you love living them. I was particularly struck by a gentleman who shared the same namesake as my friend, this simple coincidence somehow made the entire story which is far -removed from me, become my own intimate reality.
As a first-generation immigrant myself, I am constantly concerned with migration, mine, my family's, those who will come after me, those who came before me, those millions of Mexicans who come here in hope to reach the "American dream," the reality of migration, the psychological issues related to the same, the list of immigration topics seems endless some days.
As an art professional, I am fascinated by cultural migration, especially as it pertains to the visual culture. I find it deeply intriguing that visual culture doesn't migrate but is instead is reborn most of the time. But I digress, as a Mexican living in Los Angeles, immigration is genuinely all around me every day; K-town, Little Tokyo, China Town, Boyle Heights, etc, all wonderful lumps of culture that exist within the confines of the city I call home.
Maiolino tapped visually into migration realities in a very tangent and intelligent way. "Entrevidas" (between lives) for instance is the zenith of visual representation of what it means to be an immigrant in a foreign land. In this body of work, the artist covered the ground with dozens of white eggs that she navigated through in a series of photographs, exemplifying visually what it means to walk on eggshells. I have many undocumented friends and was part of this category myself once. Thus I recall the reality of having to walk on eggshells around my entire life.
Undocumented mentality (especially in the older generations), is heavily marked by a strange vulnerability and an intense fear of authority figures and deportation, thus getting into any kind of trouble is completely out of question. We learn to edit our behavior, to become muted versions of our true selves, to attract less attention, to blend in, to live our lives as shells of our humanity in hopes to call a new land our home (my personal favorite, remains to this day driving, I can't speed, rarely cross yellow lights, and am hyper vigilant of my surroundings at all times).
Being an immigrant can be exhausting, and confusing at times, glances of which appeared in Maiolino's work as it related to language. I personally loved the titles of some of the works and thought it was very intriguing to think of them in different languages, as they took on new meanings (I speak four languages, Maiolino has to speak three at least based on her career trajectory). "Glu Glu Glu..." for instance, wonderful soft sculpture, signaled linguistic confusion to me, "glu" is both the noise I associate to drinking water (in Spanish), and the substance I think about needing every time I play with glitter (in English), thus Maiolino opened an entire conversation about language with three syllables (and an astonishing soft sculpture). Which also circled back to migration, within a single sentence I was able to relate to her migration story (Italian who migrated to Venezuela, and then Brazil... so she speaks Italian, Spanish and Portuguese potentially), I was able to understand new layers of meaning within her work, I was able to see myself in this exhibition. Granted I came into MOCA Grand in a vulnerable state, however, the work allowed me to unpack so much, to feel so much, to learn so much, it transmitted so many ideas, I gave me a safe space of reflection and I loved it!
I am not delving too deep into her sculptures, because those alone can be a 300-page treatise, but know that the materiality of touch as expressed via female oppression is very tangible within her work. Maiolino managed to visually present the reality of labor, the simplest variations of mechanical engineering at its least technologically advance placement. Each sculpture was a moment, each decision was acknowledged, each moment was present, each reality was deconstructed. There is an endless world of possibility for praxis within Maiolino's clay sculptures alone, from the simplest of touches to the glazed, covered holed boxes, and everything in between.
I almost felt like this exhibition was many many of them packed into one. The open-wound works on paper, the manufactured sculptures, the migration related artworks, language, and so on and so forth. It felt like in every different gallery I was encountering a completely different environment. I truly appreciated the exploratory notion of this, and the great aha moments (all of them, and there were many).
Also, Entrevidas will be performed on Sep 14 @ 7 pm & Nov 5 @ 3 pm | More on that here.
Still in awe of Philippe, Helen and the MOCA team's efforts for this beautifully curated exhibition. Go MOCA!... Oh and side note Katz' Lauguin on the Outside is heavily Latino packed and everyone should go play with Orozco's pingpong table, and let go of the fear of the white museum space by enjoying it, even if its not a part of PST. Go - play!