Friday, December 9, 2011

"timesteps" Debra Barrera and Norberto Gomez, Jr. at Lawndale Art Center

This was my first visit to the Lawndale Art Center. I have heard so much about the Center through the years as friends have had shows there and via coverage on Glasstire. I really enjoyed experiencing the large well lit galleries and the outdoor lawn exhibition space. I saw four of the exhibitions on view that day, and I truly appreciate the printed brochures that accompanied each exhibit.  

Naturally, I had a biased motive for arriving at the Center to see Debra Barrera's work.  However, I had never seen her work before this day, and was, therefore, pleasantly relieved to find that her work appeals to my collecting aesthetics.  Don't get me wrong, the work by the other artists in the other galleries was all top-notch and well curated in their respective spaces.  But I adore well crafted drawings and sculptures, and Barrera's work fits that sensibility. I am also attracted to relationships between people and seeing what makes them tick, and this two-person exhibition embodies this.

foreground: Debra Barrera's Timesteps (for Wendy Carlos), plexiglass, Moog synthesizer, resin, graphite, water, 48" x 24" x 18", 2011
background, blue reflection on Timesteps: Norberto Gomez, Jr.'s Buddy's, looped video projection, 2011

From the Lawdale Art Center's website I learned this about the exhibition:

Debra Barrera and Norberto Gomez, Jr. participate with the viewer in
opposite formats to create a convergence of ideas that are rooted in
the investigation of manipulating the passage of time through their
respective mediums and influences. Norberto Gomez Jr. critiques and
reveres his friendships and acquaintances through time-based mediums
by utilizing chat rooms, film, and drawings. Interactive exhibits and
projected film will replicate for the viewer a sense of
acquaintanceship with Norberto himself in real time. Debra Barrera
turns toward time based mediums like the Hollywood film, music, and
performance to influence her sculptures and drawings. Although
seemingly timeless in their appearance, Debra investigates how static
objects can be imbued with the essence of the passage of time.

Gomez was born in Alice, TX. He is currently living, working and attending Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA as a PhD student in Media Art & Text. Barrera was born in Corpus Christi, TX and currently lives in Houston where she works at McMurtrey Gallery

I had not been to the opening reception nor did I attend an artist talk, so I sent Barrera a few questions via email:

Hampton's Court: What is the relationship between you and Norberto?
Barrera: Norby and I got our master's in painting together at UofH and the overarching theme for the show was about time based mediums and how we each would deal with the issue in our work.
HC: What is the intended dialogue you two have set up between your works, if any?
B: Like I said above we were interested in time based mediums and how to respond to them. Norby took a more personal approach and dealt with it by revisiting personal memories of favorite films and hangouts (The looping video Buddy's was a hometown bar). I dealt with time based issues by revolving the show around American and British film and books. My major influences were Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, and J.D. Salinger. Every piece has something attached to it (usually found in the titles)

 Norberto Gomez, Jr.'s Buddy's, looped video projection, 2011

Gomez, an apology, ink on graphing paper, 2011 

Gomez, Cannibalism in 46 Movements (After-Baxandall part 3), ink on graphing paper, 2011

Gomez, savage rite, three-channel television set up with Cannibal Boom Is This Holocaust soundtrack, 2011

Hampton's Court: Your <website> pics of Timesteps (for Wndy Carlos) show a lid on the plexi vitrine. Yet when we visited the lid was absent and the sides were bowed out from the weight of the water. That left us with a queasy unstable feeling, and I'm wondering if that was an intended emotional reaction to the work or not?
Barrera:  I'm glad that there was an emotional reaction but sadly none of this was intended. I originally wanted the water to remain in the plexiglas with little interference, alas gravity made this impossible. Yet, looking on it all now, I welcome what happened with the piece, it is truly the only time-based piece in the show from my part of the exhibition and I did intend for the work to be a bit sad, more akin to a memorial than any other piece in the show.

Physics aside, I'd say the piece works due to the illusion of the double imagery caused by the refraction of the water.  Also, given the overall professionalism evident in the Lawndale Art Center, I was not too worried about a watery accident occurring while I was there.  It was Barrera's fine drawings that quickly drew my attention away, though.

 A Night to Remember, graphite on paper, 2011

Bonnie Blue Butler, graphite on paper, 2011

Game Show Microphone, graphite on paper, 2011

On Days Like These, Lamborghini Miura, graphite on paper, 2011

While Gomez's drawings are immediate and work in conjunction with his text, Barrera's drawings reveal time intensive marks employing painterly techniques of light and shadowing. She focuses on a lyric, a passage, or a frame and presents us with a distillation of the original story.

Snow White, polyester resin, Valium, pure pigment, cultured pearl necklace, ink, 2011

Sleeping Beauty, liquid silicone, needles, thread, 2011

Patriotic colors that caused me to consider American ideals of beauty.

Les and Bessie, vintage glasses, epoxy resin, pure pigment, ink, 2011

Seymour, vintage glass, epoxy resin, pure pigment, ink, crushed spotlight glass, 2011

Zooey, vintage cobalt glass, epoxy resin, Yves St. Laurent mascara wand, glitter, 2011

In much the same way Barrera distills time in her drawings, she captures pure moments of lusciousness in her sculptures.  Pigments, needles, bits of glass and glitter are caught in layers of resin forever trapped in space and time for us to consider ourselves and our relationships with others.

This exhibition will be on view at the Lawndale Art Center through January 7, 2012.

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