IN/SITU 2018

Curated by Pablo León de la Barra

Installed within the expansive, vaulted architecture of Navy Pier’s Festival Hall, IN/SITU features large-scale, suspended sculptures and site-specific works. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Curator at large, Latin America Pablo León de la Barra curated a selection of works featuring artists from leading international exhibitors participating in the 2018 exposition. 

Participating Artists

Carmen Argote | Instituto de Visión, Bogota, Colombia
Iván Argote | Perrotin, New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai
Firelei Báez | Kavi Gupta, Chicago
Judy Chicago | Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco and Salon 94, New York
Sam Durant | Praz-Delavallade, Los Angeles, Paris
Carlos Motta | P.P.O.W., New York
Oscar Murillo | David Zwirner, New York, London, Hong Kong
Iván Navarro | Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York
Postcommodity | Bockley Gallery, Minneapolis
Bosco Sodi | Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York

Carmen Argote. My father's side of home, 2014

Carmen Argote
My father's side of home, 2014
Instituto de Visión, Bogota, Colombia

Interacting with architecture to reflect on personal histories and her own immigrant experience, Carmen Argote’s work explores notions of home and place. Employing the act of inhabitation as a starting point, Argote often works with her family, describing the immigrant experience as a layered, multigenerational, transnational experience that is echoed though shared memories, traumas, and aspirations. For Argote, architecture exists beyond the physical structure; in familial myth, in class structures, in shapes, and as an imprint acting upon the body. Her interest in the shape of spaces and in layout as visual language for expression developed in her childhood from looking at her father’s architectural drawings of houses he wanted to build. In My father’s side of home the large canvas wall fabrics are inspired by her father’s architectural drawings of the houses he wanted to build in Guadalajara, one of which he did. The wall drawings are derived from Carmen’s room at Mansion Magnolia. This room was used as her father’s office when he eventually moved back to Guadalajara. Argote uses muslin fabric as a material that moves through economic classes in Mexico artisanal and working class. The shift in scale present within this work reveals the installation as being derived from something, but no longer fitting it – visually capturing her father’s experience of wanting to return to Mexico, doing so, and no longer fitting in.

Iván Argote. Among Us — Across History Across Worlds Across History, 2017 

Iván Argote
Among Us — Across History Across Worlds Across History, 2017 
Perrotin, New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai

Iván Argote’s (b. 1983, Bogotá, Colombia, lives between Bogotá / Paris) works explore the relationships between history, politics, and the construction of our own subjectivities. His films, sculptures, collages, and public space installations attempt to generate questions about how we relate to one another, to the state, to patrimony, and to traditions. Among us, a series of large concrete but hollow pieces, create an uncanny architecture of presence and absence. The perforated sculptures seem to be fragments, or even archaeological vestiges, of a major architectural structure. Their surfaces reveal excerpts of statements related to Argote’s long term research on the history of ideologies and propaganda, and its influence on the production of subjectivity.

Firelei Báez
Kavi Gupta, Chicago

Firelei Báez (b. Santiago de los Caballeros, Domonican Republic) lives and works in New York. She makes intricate works on paper and canvas that are intrinsically indebted to a rigorous studio practice as well as large scale sculpture. Through converging interests in anthropology, science fiction, black female subjectivity, and women’s work, her practice explores the humor and fantasy involved in self-making within diasporic societies, which have an ability to live with cultural ambiguities, and uses this context to build psychological and even metaphysical defenses against cultural invasions.

Judy Chicago. Cartoon for The Fall from the Holocaust Project, 1987. 

Judy Chicago
Cartoon for The Fall from the Holocaust Project, 1987
Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco and Salon 94, New York

The Fall is a visual narrative tracing artist Judy Chicago’s discovery that the Holocaust grew out of the very 'fabric' of Western Civilization, hence the use of tapestry for this work, is the full scale 'cartoon' (based on the Italian word 'cartoni,' a detailed painting for tapestry). The Fall introduces Chicago’s longstanding and formative series the Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light (1985–93) through a narrative that traces the battle between the Amazons and the giants, based on the Pergammon Altar, through the rise of patriarchal religions and their imposition through force. The center image is a reinterpretation of Leonardo da Vinci's Vetruvian Man, when 'man' became the measure of all things, which leads to a split narrative, the top of the composition portrays the 'goddess given'—gifts of weaving and alludes to the persecution of weavers during the Inquisition, and the overlap between anti-semitism and anti-feminism present in this history, through the targeted burning of both Jews and female “witches.” The lower part of the composition represents the idea of time as money basic to the Industrial Revolution that brought the diminishment of women's earlier roles as weavers to wage slaves, which were foundational to the assembly line techniques that the Nazis adapted. Here, the first creatures on the assembly line are pigs, raising the question: what is the difference between pigs and people who are defined as pigs? The Fall suggests the Holocaust as an allegory for the ultimate "fall" from grace.

Sam Durant. Am I Next?, 2017

Sam Durant
Am I Next?, 2017
Stay, 2017
Speak the Truth Even if Your Voice Shakes, 2015
Praz-Delavallade, Los Angeles, Paris

For over twenty years, artist Sam Durant has scoured the image archives of international protests and demonstrations as sources for drawings and large-scale light-box signs, as part of his Electric Signs series. Featuring hand-drawn maxims from these demonstrations, the texts are transferred from Durant’s source photographs into a format typically associated with commercial signage and advertising. Spontaneous, rapid, and subjective, these messages are transmitted through an informational display mode. Within this contemporary context, the statements included within Electric Signs achieve a new sense of urgency and power from their dispassionate conveyance. Presented within the IN/SITU program are three light boxes, which read ‘Am I Next’, ‘Stay’ and ‘Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes,’— phrases that Durant has sourced from various protests across the country. 

Carlos Motta. Shape of Freedom (2013)

Carlos Motta
Shape of Freedom (2013)
P.P.O.W., New York

Shape of Freedom investigates the political developments of sexual activism in Mexico and other Western countries. Revisiting the history of the pink triangle, and other emblems of sexual difference, the work stresses the importance of collective processes for the advancement of the notion of social freedom. During World War II, the pink triangle was used by the Nazis to identify homosexual prisoners in concentration camps. Later on, American activists in the 1970s appropriated the emblem as a sign of social empowerment, which represented progressive ideals such as the abolition of marriage, patriarchy, and capitalism—as a movement that strived for a society free of sexual exclusion. In the midst of the HIV/AIDS crisis, the emblem was adopted as part of the efforts to fight the epidemic. In the middle of the same decade, the rainbow flag replaced the triangle as a “symbol of freedom,” but it also emerged as a different type of activism that slowly abandoned the desire for a fundamental systemic change, while assimilating a heterosexual normativity. From the geometric harmony of a pink triangle and the complex history of its social connotations, Shape of Freedom questions the present and future of sexual activism. The wall-bound work is accompanied by a takeaway designed by the artist.

Oscar Murillo. collective conscience, 2018

Oscar Murillo
collective conscience, 2018
David Zwirner, New York, London, Hong Kong

collective conscience continues Oscar Murillo's exploration of human labor within a global capitalist system. This theme has recurred within the artist's work in numerous guises, one example being the use of Mateos, traditional effigies created to celebrate new year in Colombia. In the past, in installation works such as Human Resources (2016), these figures have perhaps symbolized a mobile proletariat, complete with uniforms or clothing that is suggestive of laborers. More recently, for his installation for the 10th Berlin Biennale, the artist incorporated partial human figures in the form of dismembered torsos, erupting as if partly digested from a giant, intestine-like casing. Here these 'workers' appear as consumed and decaying matter. In this further iteration, created specifically for IN/SITU, Murillo continues to ponder the position of workers, implicated as both producers and consumers within a system that is stagnating.

Iván Navarro. Metal Electric Chair, 2017

Iván Navarro 
Metal Electric Chair, 2017
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York

Iván Navarro was born in 1972 in Santiago, Chile, to a family of artists. What Navarro remembers most about his childhood growing up under the regime of General Augusto Pinochet, was the fear of being “disappeared,” as many political dissidents were. In order to better understand this dark history, Navarro uses light — a symbol of hope and truth — as his medium. Navarro uses electric light as his primary medium, making politically charged sculptures and installations that address the violence inflicted by the Chilean state. On a local level, his works refer directly to crimes perpetrated by the country’s military regime, but some also reflect his concerns about global issues, addressing, for example, capital punishment in the United States. With their ambient glow, the works are seductive, and yet with the live current coursing through them, they are admittedly unnerving. Navarro’s series of “electric chairs” are based on the design of modernist Gerrit Rietveld’s Red and Blue Chair from 1918. The Dutch architect and furniture designer, a member of the avant-garde movement De Stijl, handcrafted with pieces of standard lumber—many years later the chair was mass produced. “[Metal Electric Chair] was kind of a building block for me,” Navarro says of the fluorescent piece, an exercise in materials and formalism. Unlike the Bauhaus approach to chairs as “machines for sitting,” the context of Navarro’s series reference the “electric chair” as a mode of execution. Navarro’s artwork is not intended for sitting at all, and he would be more apt to refer to his chairs as machines for killing. “Neon is fragile,” he says, “but it can electrocute you.” Navarro’s chair unsettles the original’s utopian aspirations through a grim allusion to electrocution.

Postcommodity. Repellent Fence, 2015

Repellent Fence, 2015
Bockley Gallery, Minneapolis

Postcommodity’s work Repellent Fence is a social collaborative project among individuals, communities, institutional organizations, publics, and sovereigns that culminated, during four days in October 2015, with the establishment of a large-scale temporary monument located near the US-Mexico border between Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Sonora. This two-mile-long ephemeral land art installation was comprised of twenty-six tethered balloons, each ten feet in diameter, which floated one hundred feet above the desert landscape. The surfaces of the balloons that comprise Repellent Fence carry an assisted readymade image that was used to repel birds. Coincidently, these patterns use Indigenous medicine colors and iconography—a similar graphic used by Indigenous peoples from South America to Canada for thousands of years. The ephemeral monument serves to bi-directionally reach across the US-Mexico border as a suture stitching together the peoples of the Americas—symbolically demonstrating the interconnectedness of the Western Hemisphere by recognizing the land and Indigenous peoples, their history, relationships, movement and modes of communication. For IN/SITU, a singular balloon from Repellent Fence is suspended above the exposition, acting as a beacon that recognizes all Indigenous peoples who are intermeshed in the theater of the contemporary immigration crisis of the Americas—both as the historical stewards of the land, and those who are following ancient Indigenous trade routes in search of economic opportunity.

Bosco Sodi. Muro, 2018 

Bosco Sodi
Muro, 2018 
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York

Bosco Sodi’s Muro as first installed in New York’s Washington Square Park in September of 2017. Originally intended as a transitory intervention, the performance takes place over the course of one day. The construction of Muro begins in the morning, allowing visitors to interact with the work as it occupies an open space. At the conclusion of the wall assembly, midway through the day, visitors are invited to remove one timber, each sealed with the artist’s signature, to take home with them. The sculpture endures as a communally co-owned work of art. The project expands upon Sodi’s ongoing interest in organic processes beyond the artist’s control. The impermanent nature of Muro further underscores the sentiment that all obstacles have the potential to be dismantled through united forces. Throughout the duration of the installation, Muro invokes diverse metaphors that become activated by the public as they collectively disassemble the wall. In doing so, Sodi’s Muro subverts the primary function of a wall as a device of separation by empowering the community to remove this physical barrier and its inherent symbolism. The evolution of the sculpture is thus inextricably linked to civic participation, so that the shared response and action of individuals become implicit subjects of Sodi’s work. This is the third iteration of Muro—the wall is constructed of 325 unique clay timbers that Sodi fires by hand at his studio in Oaxaca, Mexico, with the help of local craftsman. 

About the Curator

Pablo León de la Barra, Curator at large, Latin America at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Chief Curator MAC Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro and associate curator at MASP, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, was born in Mexico City in 1972 and lives in Rio de Janeiro.  He holds a Ph.D. in Histories and Theories from the Architectural Association, London. He was previously the Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Latin America (2013-2016) at the same institution and Director of the Casa França-Brasil in Rio de Janeiro (2015-16). León de la Barra has organized or co-organized exhibitions at institutions worldwide including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; MOCAD, Detroit; South London Gallery, London; Kunsthalle Zürich; Museo Tamayo and Museo Jumex, Mexico; TEOR/éTica, San José, Costa Rica; Museo de Arte de Zapopan, Guadalajara; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro. He was founder and co-curator of the 1st and 2nd Bienal Tropical, San Juan, Puerto Rico (2011 and 2016), co-curator of SITE Santa Fe Biennial, New Mexico (2016) and curator of the Mexican Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale.