On Suffolk Street, between East Houston and Stanton, stands a small building with a ground floor facade made of glass. Four tall panes are topped by four shorter ones. The southernmost panes have been painted pale pink. Another top pane has been brushed with a thick pink “X.” The bottom pane farthest north is labeled “PROXYCO” and forms the door to PROXYCO Gallery, a space dedicated to showing the works of Latin American artists.
Currently on view is a group show entitled “A Room is Made Up of Other Spaces,” curated by Daniel Garza Usabiaga and featuring the works of Ana Elena Garuz, Fabiola Menchelli and Verónica Lehner.
Lehner, based in Bogotá and her hometown of Cali, is the artist behind the gallery’s current, partially pink facade. Speaking about the painted windows, she related them to the acts of constructing and seeing, “The first layers are very thin, and you can see all the brushwork. … I started thinking about construction [sites], how the painters … cover the windows with the paint, and I love that.” She added, “Covering the window … makes it become visible. … I wanted to have this idea of places where you can look into the gallery and places where you cannot and the other way around. So it becomes like image, object … fluctuating.”
Lehner’s close look at materials and their contextual possibilities extends into the gallery. Desplegado 3 (2018) is a sculpture made out of an elastic paint mixture that, much like a large piece of pale pink fabric, Lehner has draped from a steel bar down to the gallery floor. In a pleasantly surprising twist, the viewer realizes that the paint can exist not merely to color or cover another surface, but to stand in its own right and take up space of its own. According to Lehner, the paint will, however, continue to stretch toward the ground for the duration of the exhibition — though it will not break.
Lehner’s final main floor piece, “Paramento 1 (Atelier #2)” (2017), is part of a series of paintings entitled “Paramentos,” meaning walls or facades, that she created during her residency at the FRAC Pays de La Loire in France. For this series, Lehner used linen fabric and an acrylic solution to capture architectural elements of a space by dragging and folding the fabric across its walls. Said Lehner, “It’s kind of like inhabiting the place … folding and unfolding, and living there for a bit, grabbing stuff; it’s kind of like a parasite in a way.”
Ana Elena Garuz’s work is strongly rooted in the spaces she inhabits daily, especially her own studio space in Panama City. In recent years, she has turned an eye to the possibilities of blue tape. Always attentive to line, Garuz often uses blue house painter’s tape during her own painting process. Once it is no longer needed, she pulls the tape from her work and sticks it to her studio wall. One day she noticed the strips of tape that had accumulated beyond her paintings and saw she could do something else with them. Said Garuz, “ The idea is another way of using the line with something as simple as … an everyday object that you see and sometimes … overlook.”
Reflection No. 2 (2016) is a constellation of these curving pieces of tape rendered in aluminum and blue polyurethane paint, which Garuz has attached to a wall of the gallery’s main floor. Though she has exhibited the piece multiple times, Garuz hangs it differently for each show, depending on the new wall and space that it is given.
Garuz has also reintroduced the tape to her painting process as subject matter. “Concentration exercises No. 11-12” (2016) hang side-by-side in a room below the gallery’s main floor. Beautiful blue and white compositions, they are painted using super pigmented ink on paper. Said Garuz, “I started making these as an exercise for concentration … to concentrate into something … so small and so simple … an exercise … to continue my practice.” Garuz intends to see just how many things she can do with the tape in the future.
Based in Mexico City, photographer Fabiola Menchelli focuses on the spaces that can be created within her camera. Speaking about photography Menchelli stated, “Normally it’s harder to think of photography as a medium that can talk about the imagination or can talk about constructing … start[ing] from scratch and from inspiration, instead of just framing a piece of this world.”
Often working in black and white and in relation to other mediums, such as architecture or sculpture, Menchelli manipulates light and shapes to create her own compositions. For this show, Menchelli has made her first body of work that places an emphasis on color. She described her process, “In this case, I’m trying to have a conversation between photography and painting. … I’m photographing paper cut-outs … and then I use different gels … to color the light. … Every color that you see is an exposure. … I take all these pictures in the same plane, and it’s like a memory game. I have to remember what I photographed and where it was and what color it was, so I can mix the light and the color and start constructing an image inside of the camera.”
The result is a series of skillfully layered, colored and shaped geometric constructions that Menchelli often names according to what the final composition reminds her of, such as “King” (2018), “Pink Lady” (2018) and “Archer” (2018).
Though these three artists have unique and focused approaches to their mediums and materials, they all see and connect deeply to the larger contexts in which their art exists. Noting the importance of a space like PROXYCO, Garuz spoke of her work in its political context, “The idea … to promote artists from Latin America is super important at this time. There’s a whole region that has really been overlooked in the history of contemporary art. … People here in the states forget that we are America.” She added, “Women are sometimes overlooked in art completely. When you look in museums, there are galleries that only show men. … When you see a roster of artists a gallery has here in New York, sometimes it’s two women and fourteen men. That’s not right.”
Founded by Alexandra Morris and Laura Saenz, PROXYCO Gallery is doing its part to put Latin American women on the map.
A Room is Made Up of Other Spaces
May 12 – July 1, 2018
168 Suffolk St.
New York, NY 10002