Extremely absorbent and increasingly hollow
The artworks included in the exhibition Extremely absorbent and increasingly hollow complicate the notion of a discrete body as separate from the unruly matter of the physical world and impervious to the penetration of cultural signifiers from the social world. Working across sculpture, performance, and video, artists Xandra Ibarra, Alison Kuo, and Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin forego direct representation, instead employing materials that stand in for the mass of the body and the surface of the skin to consider processes of consumption and anxieties around contamination.
Both consumption and contamination occur in the body by way of ingestion and proximity––we continuously absorb elements of the world around us. These systems also extend to the social, marking bodies and populations with sometimes dangerous physical and social implications in the form of ideologies, perceptions, anxieties, and desires as examined in different ways by the artworks included.
In the exhibition, Shin cultivates the growth of bacteria on the porous surface of unfired porcelain vessels, drawing connections between skin, objecthood, and agency. Ibarra aligns with the qualities of endurance manifested in the figure of the cockroach and its process of ecdysis, when the insect sheds and regenerates its shell in an ongoing cycle not of transformation, but of sameness. Kuo engages notions of sacrifice, sensuality, and aspiration contained in the material properties and social history of gelatin in the United States, tracking its transformation from its early use in wartime rationing to its emergence as a colorful object of desire. Across the works, the artists implement living and moving processes: the visible growth of bacteria, the contours of a cockroach skin costume enlivened and rendered void by a vacuum, the vigorous contact between flesh and gelatin. The works privilege viscous, slippery, and transitional states over the solid and static. They implement materials often deemed disagreeable and impure over clean and controlled to examine how value is perceived and assigned. Through their materials, the artists evoke modes of hollowness, absorbency, void, and excess, registering the potentials and dangers of these interrelated – and sometimes conflicting – conditions.
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Xandra Ibarra is an Oakland-based performance artist from the US/Mexico border who sometimes works under the alias of La Chica Boom. Ibarra uses hyperbolized modes of racialization and sexualization to test the boundaries between her own body and coloniality, compulsory whiteness, and Mexicanidad. Her practice integrates performance, sex acts, and burlesque with video, photography, and objects. Throughout her multiple works, she teeters between abjection and joy and the borders between proper and improper racial, gender, and queer subject.
Ibarra’s work has been featured at El Museo de Arte Contemporañeo (Bogotá, Colombia), Broad Museum (LA, USA), Popa Gallery (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Joe’s Pub (NYC), PPOW Gallery (NYC), Anderson Collection (Stanford) and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (SF) to name a few. Recent residencies include Marble House Project, Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, National Performance Network, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. She has been awarded the Queer Art Prize for Recent Work, Art Matters Grant, NALAC Fund for the Arts, ReGen Artist Fund, and the Franklin Furnace Performance and Variable Media Award. Her work has been featured in Artforum, Paper Magazine, Hyperallergic, Huffington Post, ArtNews and in various academic journals nationally and internationally. She is currently curating a year long performance art series at The Broad Museum (LA) with Nao Bustamante entitled EN CUATRO PATAS.
Ibarra’s work has also been featured in several recent and forthcoming books. Juana Maria Rodriguez’s Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings features her performance “I am your Puppet” (2007) while Amber Jamilla Musser’s Brown Jouissance: Feminine Imaginings includes a chapter about Ibarra’s collaboration with performance artist Amber Hawk Swanson, “Untitled Fucking” (2013). Leticia Alvarado’s Abject Performances: Aesthetic Strategies in Latino Cultural Production features Ibarra’s performance work “Skins/Less Here” on the cover and within the book.
Alison Kuo makes art that examines power and class dynamics through the language of food. Her participatory performances invite her audience to collaborate, and to eat, within the framework of an installation. Her photographs and videos remix coded representations of food from advertising, cookbooks, and popular media.
Kuo received an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York, NY and a BA from Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX. She has exhibited her work within the US at Motel gallery, Beverly’s, CANADA, ICI, Present Company, Cathouse FUNeral, The NARS Foundation, E.Tay gallery, Space Heater, the New York Art Book Fair, and Superchief in NYC, and at the UNTITLED art fair, OHWOW, and the Young at Art Museum in Miami. International group exhibitions include the 2016 Nanjing International Art Festival, the MATERIAL art fair in Mexico City, Paraiso Bajo in Bogotá, and Malagana Macula in Managua. Kuo teaches workshops on performative cooking and dining at the Abrons Art Center, and is on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts MFA Fine Arts program in NYC. She is the creator of the popular blog Accidental Chinese Hipsters.
Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin explores the porousness of bodily boundaries and the ceaseless movement of living processes, like fermentation echoing the history of colonialism. Shin is interested in entangling the history of conquest and the literal digestion of material – herbs, medicine, and food – into a new system of relations that emerge from a complicated history of entanglement. Shin has exhibited at SPRING/BREAK, New York, NY (2018), Disclaimer Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2018), AC Institute, New York, NY (2017), Abrons Arts Center, New York, NY (2017), Miranda Kuo Gallery, New York, NY (2017), and many others. Forthcoming exhibitions include Universal Skin Salvation at Knockdown Center, Maspeth, NY, Phantom Limb at Cody Dock, London, England and Ghost in the Ghost at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Brooklyn, NY. Shin lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Alexis Wilkinson is a mover and a curator working across dance, performance, and visual art. Recent curatorial projects include Chloë Bass: The Book of Everyday Instruction at Knockdown Center, NY (2018), A Collection of Slow Events at The Luminary, MO (2017), In Practice: Material Deviance at SculptureCenter, NY (2017), objects are slow events at the Hessel Museum, NY (2016), and Matter to Whom? at the Judd Foundation, NY (2015). She has also organized exhibitions and performances for Abrons Art Center, NADA NY, and A.I.R. Gallery.
Wilkinson is the Director of Exhibitions and Live Art at Knockdown Center in Queens, NY, where she programs and produces interdisciplinary exhibitions, performances, and events. She is currently the 2017 – 2018 AIRspace curator-in-residence at Abrons Art Center, New York. Previously, she was the 2017 Curatorial Fellow at SculptureCenter, New York, and has held research, administrative, and curatorial support roles at the New Museum, New York and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Wilkinson holds an MA in Curatorial Studies from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College and a BA in Cultural Studies, Dance, and Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles.
About Cuchifritos Gallery:
Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space, a program of Artists Alliance Inc, was founded in 2001 to foster a deeper connection between contemporary art and the local community, to provide an alternative space within the Essex Street Market to showcase emerging artists and emerging ideas, and to serve as a platform for curators to challenge dominant exhibition models.