Poetics of Place
Opening Reception: Thursday, April 14, 6 to 8 pm
David Castillo presents Poetics of Place, a group exhibition of paintings, prints, and photographs by María de los Angeles Rodríguez Jiménez, Adler Guerrier, and Lyle Ashton Harris.
Poetics of Place charts three trajectories—tracing the distinct practices of the represented artists—through which the notion of place is deconstructed, reimagined, and conveyed visually as an artifact of personal experience. The exhibition approaches place beyond its geographical dimensions and envisions it as a temporal construct and as an embodied extension of the self. At the center of Poetics of Place are the means and methods through which each artist locates and maps themself within their work. Referring to Édouard Glissant’s rhizomatic evocation of poetics, the exhibition acknowledges that place is conceived along a multiplicity of shifting and non-linear conditions that one is never fully able to pin down and grasp.
For Rodríguez Jiménez, place becomes localized in her own understanding of the body as a vessel that contains various versions of the self. Referencing personal histories of migration and the at-times sanguineous corporeality of Afro-Cuban ritual traditions, the artist’s womb-like works confront her own feelings of being torn between diverging conceptions of herself. Her sculptural paintings are made of mixed materials including paint, razor wire, wax, and textiles that drape, stretch, or fold in on themselves. The structures of Rodríguez Jiménez’s works approximate the fleshiness and fragility of the body, heightened in these times by the contexts of pandemic, isolation, and loss. Her practice alludes to place as embodiment and the body as a place that cannot be adequately contained or defined.
Inhabiting the role of flâneur and cultural cartographer, Guerrier approaches the at-times mundane visual vernaculars of cities as a means of deducing the social and political circumstances that have brought to bear those urban aesthetics. Across yards, parks, sidewalks, and streets in locales like Miami and San Antonio, Guerrier approaches place as a strategy towards understanding the Utopian impulse, its material impossibility, and how populations have come to live among the peculiar and overlapping conditions of natural and built environments. Capturing these sites on camera and translating them into lithographs of overlapped shapes and subjects, Guerrier looks to place as an ideological space that is continually reimagined and recontextualized in every instance of representation.
In his photographic practice, Harris mines periods of his own past to relate personal encounters of queer expression, representation, and life. Many of his works are derived from a vast archive of 35 mm Ektachrome slides that the artist captured between 1986 and 1996, a decade that Harris avidly documented. These images envision a portrait of the artist as a young man, pictured through the faces of his friends, family, and lovers; the settings he found himself memorializing on photographic film; and the backdrop of the queer community of the late 1980s and early 90s, a period that coincided with the second wave of AIDS activism. Works in the exhibition as well trace other periods of Harris’s life and career, such as his time living in Ghana from 2005-12. For the artist, place is a moment that encapsulates the ethos of an age and of a life lived, untethered from the linear, forward-moving path of time.
Place can be carnal, philosophical, and nostalgic. Poetics of Place ruminates on these potentials of place to connect bodies, beliefs, and pasts in a swirling imaginary composed of all the things—circumstances, politics, narratives—that have imprinted themselves upon a site.