Opening Reception: April 16, 2016 6-8pm
Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to announce Mansión Magnolia, a solo exhibition by Los Angeles-based artist Carmen Argote. Known primarily for her large-scale architectural installations, the artist has created her first exhibition comprised entirely of photography.
Argote developed this body of work in Guadalajara, Mexico, while inhabiting Mansión Magnolia, her ancestral home turned public events space. The works produced within the mansion explore the ways in which domestic space can impact the body and construct notions of self. The photographs also serve as an extension of the artist’s previous installations, which explore memory, architecture, and the notion of home through the modification of physical space.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Argote regarded Mansión Magnolia as a place of myth. Her father’s stories of an imagined Guadalajara, where her family would one day grow and prosper, created a complex and layered narrative of personal identity and familial history.
The mansion is a transient space. As an events venue, it is transformed on a daily basis—one evening may host a concert, the next may bring piñatas for a children’s party. The photograph Brincolin, which shows a candy-colored bouncy castle in a grand neoclassical hall, simultaneously references moments, days, years, and eras. The convergence of nineteenth century and modernist design further represents status and class, an aspiration for economic growth, and the prevalence of European and American influence on Guadalajara.
Each image in the series is inscribed with bodily presence, though no figures are present. In works such as Tías and Las Lindas, Argote’s body becomes a gestural mark upon the site. Using slow exposures to paint with her skin, Argote takes a diffuse, abstract ownership of the mansion; she records her own existence in the space and claims agency with her body.
In 1936, philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin stated, “Buildings are appropriated in a twofold manner: by use and by perception – or rather, by touch and sight.” By developing habitual interactions within Mansión Magnolia—through time, movement, and the process of photographic documentation—Argote has come to understand the values inherent in this architecture, and the impact of this place on her identity and those of her ancestors.