art review: Alejandro Almanza Pereda at Magnanmetz

Alejandro Almanza Pereda
The Heaviest Luggage for the Traveler is the Empty One

at Magnanmetz Gallery

Bret Schneider

Stepping into Pereda’s solo exhibition is like stepping into an American Arte Povera that never was but still wants to be.  That is, The Heaviest Luggage seems historically displaced or merely delayed and demonstrates a regulation of historical leftovers in contemporary art.  The symbolically proletarian materials so redolent of Giovanni Anselmo’s Senza Titolo (1968) are reiterated in multiple throughout the exhibition as if by automation.  By substituting many plants for one leaf, adding a pile of concrete slabs to one, viewers get sufficient portraiture of art history as vulgar teleology to substantiate the countless places where such ideas have already taken root.   Much if not all of the exhibition’s content is predetermined by the materials chosen; materials that are not merely banal but iconically banal through their canonization.  Consequently the work toys with a now unavoidable social commentary via representation and wordplay even as it tends towards a materialism that bolsters such trivial pursuits to become more dynamic.

A lot of the 2-dimensional work in the show is constituted of tape ‘drawings’ on paper that articulate simple axonometric structures.  Pereda’s utilization of tape to provoke very simple minimalist forms arises from a tension of the material.  Tape, that psychologically frustrating substance that through its irritating necessity in an increasingly ephemeral world of uprooting and disintegration becomes unwieldy, is paradoxically wielded to determine form all by itself.  Pereda’s use of tape is not exactly a mastery of the material – the tape lines are not perfect – but provides just enough counterintuition of the material in order to question its function and reveal a more extensive use that was never meant to be.  In Pereda’s world, the supposed ephemerality and temporality of tape is shown to be the permanent fixture that it has accidentally become in a deteriorating civilization.  The increasing mentality to ‘just fix it with duct tape’, based on a new scrappiness of living is exactly the unfinished world that Pereda’s work suggests we are increasingly accepting as permanent structures.  This sentiment is echoed in the title of the exhibition, The Heaviest Luggage For The Traveler is the Empty One, that suggests experience is consistently an experience of poverty and transience.

Violent transience and the problematic free floating extirpation of contemporary experience is exacted in the work The Tie That Binds that uses cinder blocks against their own concretizing function and extracts from the viewer an acute fascination in things that are barely being held together.  The incredible balancing act of tying dozens of cinderblocks with a single chain into an upright structure that pretends to not be one is not merely an exercise in entropy or material tension, but rather infects the viewers imagination with fantasies of a life untethered to anything whatever, even as it is the paragon of binding-ness.  Its as if, when pressed to identify the most sedimented, specific, and permanent material, Pereda pathologically needs to negate such qualities by making it transient.  What we see however is merely a representation of transience, similar to the non-chaotic sculptures of Damien Ortega.  That is to say, the work doesn’t actually float free, but rather shows a peculiar ideology from the artist who wants the material to float free.  Nevertheless, Pereda’s trick is that the storming torso of cinderblocks seem poised to topple over any moment because of a deft unity enacted upon the material itself: Pereda craftily binds the masses together with chain, and the entire slapstick act of tying – in a subtle parody of Richard Serra’s simple actions upon material – is brought to unified closure with one immense keyring that is locking the single chain and all blocks in a precarious arrangement.  The Tie That Binds exudes a social commentary that humorously compares human subjects to dull bricks irrationally solidified into an ugly mass.  However it achieves its physical poetry only through its clever titling that simply describes the action done but that forces the viewer into an interpretation-less viewing scenario wherein they can’t help but extrapolate from mere form a universal judgment.  The Tie That Binds teeters on the threshold of political illustration and minimal sculpture, bringing their problematic collapse since the 70’s into the foreground and suggesting a sculptural impasse.  Any aesthetic semblance of flying bricks then presents a double-bind: the rendering of the free-floating world as it already is paired with the inveterate wish-fulfillment for it to continue to be so far into the distant future.

Acts in generative behavior like this become overripe identifications with the very idea of generative behavior.  When the rhetoric of chance as a compositional device seems nearly exhausted, and much relational work meant to generate unexpected results seems ironically deterministic, Pereda reaches for the most obvious representation of growth – plants – to undermine the fixation on emergent behavior.  Shelving for plants made of glass panes resting on fluorescent lights seems fairly trite in an age of paltry environmentalism, and the entire display seems like an absurd attempt to sell its very ideology by revealing it to be the fetish it is through a sexily minimal display.  Again, the tensions of ‘organic‘ and ‘artificial‘ are put into a blatant play to such an extent that the viewer scents just one more ruse of generative behavior.  The ruse reaches such an acutely transparent impasse that it suggests the absolute draining of the very possibility of tension as a method in contemporary art.


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