Regen Projects presents Make-Shift-Future, a group exhibition curated by Elliott Hundley, featuring Kevin Beasley, Elaine Cameron-Weir, rafa esparza, Max Hooper Schneider, Eric N. Mack, Alicia Piller, Eric-Paul Riege, and Kandis Williams.
"I am interested in studying ancient literature because, like speculative fiction, it can massage loose the underpinnings of our attachments to pervasive contemporary mythologies, so that we might gain a clearer view of ourselves and reveal the blind spots. So many blind spots.
Collage and assemblage function similarly by transposing tactile and familiar signs and symbols into new disquieting and uncanny situations. The medium, for much of its history, has scavenged for the discarded, broken, and disused. In this age of abundant material commerce, the predicted age of peak oil, we no longer need to wait to root through the trash. Objects are produced at such a staggering rate, that the time they spend in our lives is forever fleeting on the way to the landfill (tomorrow’s mine). These artists gather objects, valued and valueless, new and used, from their own material worlds. With the stuff of an ever-speeding present at hand, this current moment increasingly feels like the past.
This exhibition brings together the work of eight emergent American artists who exploit this excess materiality of global commerce to mine history, to attune us to the meaning and artifacts of other people’s lives, and, I believe, to point to potential futures. Though informed and formed by history, they reject any nostalgia. Like Edith and Sodom or Orpheus and Eurydice, there is no looking back!
As assemblage art is assimilated into the canon (see contemporary mythology) it hybridizes and folds back on the more traditional plastic arts. The work in this exhibition includes the full spectrum of the found and the fabricated, and in most cases those distinctions are softened again through artistry. The labor of the artist seems always relevant, intermingled with the labor that produced these original objects in the first place. Did they make this stitch or that one? The intensity of the artist’s hand and this doubling of the making of these objects lend them their charge.
As with an artwork in the studio, unexpected meanings and connections reveal themselves in exhibitions. Seeing these works together, what emerged was a particular concern for the body and protecting it in different stages of life. The incubator, the skin, clothing, shoes, blankets, armor: What will we put on to keep us safe? What will we carry to keep us safe? What will help us in the future? What will liberate us?"
— Elliott Hundley
In preparing this text, I asked each artist how their work might speculate about possible futures. Excerpts from their responses appear below.
"'HEAT thru from a pillow or a splinter filing a wrinkle thats a lil Shy..Dam..has it been this
place all the time or was that blanket warm enough ? [//__//] [|-|] = AND then the hide
scrubbed clean and the shield didnt break anymore. . Burnt Water AZ—the pillow has
been in that place all the time' — HÓLÓ
blankets have warmed us for a long time why not just keep making MORE. Make a
blanket for a blanket—they get cold 2 ." — Eric-Paul Riege
Eric-Paul Riege (b. 1994, Diné) creates soft, woven sculptures, wearable art, digital collages, and durational performances that relate to his heritage and spirituality, particularly the intergenerational and interspecies traditions of weaving. These works express his philosophies and cosmologies of sanctuary, harmony, and interconnection with all elements of the world around him. His work is a being of Hózhó-Diné philosophy that encompasses beauty, balance, goodness, and harmony in all things physical and mental and its bearing on everyday experience. His work, which he describes as being “encompassed in the threads of weaving and life,” creates an immersive and charged space influenced by his own homes, ceremonies, and rituals from his past, future, and present selves.
Riege's first solo museum presentation was at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami in 2019. He has shown work and performed at venues including SITE Santa Fe Biennial, NM (2018); Navajo Nation Museum, Tségháhoodzání (Window Rock, AZ); National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM; and Heard Museum, Phoenix. In the upcoming year, Riege will be a part of the 2021 Prospect New Orleans Triennial and the 2022 Toronto Biennial.
"My Nike shoe reconstructions offer the possibility of liberation and healing from specters of violence that have historically marginalized and criminalized Black and brown youth especially as it pertains to how we fashion ourselves." — rafa esparza
For his series of sculptures Love Birds (2011–ongoing), esparza pulls apart and restitches together editions of the famous Nike trainer to give form to pigeons, hawks and fighting cocks, amongst other feathery beings. Named after Hernán Cortés, the colonizer that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and founded Mexico City under Spanish rule in the early 16th century, the Nike Cortez was the first track shoe by the world-renowned brand, and often pinpointed as the reason for its commercial success. The shoe was ironically also the preferred footwear of brown gang-affiliated youth in Los Angeles circa the mid-1990s. esparza’s sculptures combine recognizable elements of the trainer with materials such as bandanas, chicken wire, socks, and plumage, dissecting and transforming the trainer into colorful and restorative birds. Many of them carry symbolic value in the cultures of pre-historic Mexico and Central America, as well as into the present-day diaspora where young generations, descendants of these cultures, currently exist.
According to Mayan mythology, Huitzilin, the Nahuatl name for hummingbird, is a creature that was made by the gods after they had already created every living being and assigned them with their purpose on earth. After realizing that they had no one to transport their wishes and thoughts from one place to another, they created the hummingbird to “lead from here to there the thoughts of humans”. esparza pulls from the figure of Huitzilin as a messenger, but equally as a redeemer, as the Aztecs also believed that warriors were reborn as hummingbirds.
rafa esparza (b. 1981, Los Angeles) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work reveals his interests in history, personal narratives, and kinship and his own relationship to colonization and the disrupted genealogies that it produces. Using live performance as his main form of inquiry, esparza employs site-specificity, materiality, memory, and what he calls (non)documentation as primary tools to investigate and expose ideologies, power structures, and binary forms of identity that establish narratives, history, and social environments. esparza’s recent projects are grounded in laboring with land and adobe-making, a skill learned from his father, Ramón Esparza. In so doing, the artist invites Brown and Queer cultural producers to realize large-scale collective projects, gathering people together to build networks of support outside of traditional art spaces.
esparza is a recipient of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant (2015); California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Arts (2014); and Art Matters Foundation Grant (2014). Solo exhibitions have been held at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams (2019); ArtPace, San Antonio (2018); Atkinson Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA (2017); Ballroom Marfa, TX (2017); Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (2015); the Bowtie, Clockshop, Los Angeles (2015); and Vincent Price Art Museum, Monterey Park, CA (2013). esparza has performed at art institutions including Performance Space New York (2019); the Ellipse, Washington, D.C. (2019); Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018); The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); and the Bowtie, Clockshop, Los Angeles (2014). Selected group shows were held at San Diego Art Institute (2019); DiverseWorks, Houston (2019); Craft Contemporary, Los Angeles (2019); GAMMA Galeria, Guadalajara, Mexico (2019); Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NE (2017); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017); LAXART, Los Angeles (2017); PARTICIPANT, INC., New York (2016); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA (2015); and Human Resources, Los Angeles (2013).
esparza's work is in the collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Vincent Price Art Museum, Monterey Park, CA; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
He lives and works in Los Angeles.
"The future is always present, always on its way, its specificities only characterizable when a thinker arbitrarily stops time and performs a fossilizing gesture—or produces a work of art." — Max Hooper Schneider
Max Hooper Schneider (b. 1982, Los Angeles) graduated from Harvard University in 2011 with a master’s degree in landscape architecture. The foregrounding of material technologies and biological systems within this field continues to inform his artistic practice. Hooper Schneider’s work develops and explores the aesthetics of succession through the creation of worlds that materialize and dramatize nature in diverse ways with nature conceived as a process of ceaseless morphogenic modulation, a relentless onslaught in which bodies, as formed matters, are continuously created, transformed, and destroyed. The resultant work voids the difference between the natural and the artificial, challenges conventional systems of both scientific and artistic classification, and suggests a worldview that strives to dislocate humans from their assumed position of centrality and superiority as knowers and actors in the world.
Hooper Schneider lives and works in Los Angeles.
"Stripping away layers, centuries of culture, race and gender binaries, this work specifically speaks to the evolution of the mind. Literally peeling away the skin to find the truth that is underneath, our humanness." — Alicia Piller
Alicia Piller (b. 1982, Chicago) received a BFA in painting and a BA in anthropology from Rutgers University in 2004. While working in the fashion industry and living a decade in New York and three-and-a-half years in Santa Fe, NM, Piller cultivated her distinctive sculptural voice. Continuing to expand her artistic practice, she completed her MFA focused on sculpture and installation at California Institute of the Arts in May of 2019.
As a method to locate the root of human histories, Piller merges the new and discarded, experimenting with of a wide range of materials to construct large-scale works that mimic forms of cellular biology. She envisions historical traumas, both political and environmental, through the lens of a microscope. Piller’s mixed-media practice is as much about materiality as it is about content. Attempting to reconcile questions about the current state of our times, she works on a macro/micro level, breathing life into materials that have been removed from their "natural" environment. Manipulating things like resin and latex balloons (stemming from her background as a clown), each work becomes a biological unfolding of time, examining the energy around wounds societies have inflicted upon themselves and others.
Piller's work is part of the collections of Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Art Gallery at Glendale Community College, CA; the Forrest Kirk Collection; and the Pam Royalle Collection. Her sculptural work has been featured on the cover of Full Blede Magazine (Issue 10, Fall 2019) and drawings of sculptural work in the Lumina Journal at Sarah Lawrence College (January 2020).
Piller lives and works in Los Angeles.
"I had been thinking a lot about the cyclical nature of things and how snakes are used to symbolize that, whether in Biblical allegories like Adam and Eve or the ouroboros in various ancient iconographies, which show a serpent eating its own tail as a metaphor for eternal return.” — Elaine Cameron-Weir, Vogue
"Cameron-Weir does not shy away from showing us the entrails of things, plumbing the places and systems we rarely think about. I picture her patiently haunting industrial junkyards, abandoned factories, and obscure eBay pages, digging up discontinued military apparel, medical apparatuses, rods, clamps, nails, tubes, bulbs, instruments of fetishism and tools of surveillance for her sculptures of imposing beauty. …The result is an aesthetic chamber where forms, textures, and concepts reverberate." — Valentina Di Liscia, The Brooklyn Rail
Elaine Cameron-Weir (b. 1985, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada) has a forthcoming solo exhibition at Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2021) and will be included in New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century at University of California Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2021). She has had solo exhibitions at JTT, New York (2019); Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NY (2018); Dortmunder Kunstverein, Dortmund, Germany (2018); Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles (2017); and New Museum, New York (2017); amongst others. She has been included in recent group shows at Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (2018); La Biennale de Montréal (2016–17); FUTURA, Prague (2016); GAMeC, Bergamo, Italy (2014–15); and Philadelphia Museum of Art (2014).
Cameron-Weir lives and works in New York.
"The futures will deal with our waste, what we leave behind. Our present frivolities, material and emotional, may speak for us as points of expression. Hopefully new freedoms will inspire an outward glance to restructure beauty."
— Eric N. Mack
Mack’s work varies from sculpture and installation to wall pieces and work on paper. His aesthetic involves a particular type of tactility and usage of common items, primarily those related to clothing. Readymade elements, such as garments, blankets, pegboards, magazine pages, and grommets, recompose and transmute via usage of mediums like acrylic paint, glitter, and dye. Mack’s visual language speaks through these materials, as well as through color and texture, optics and flux. His works flow and shift, alive with a spectrum of hues, irregular shapes, and poetic drama. References to the fashion industry and the figure impart a seductive quality, connecting to identity or a material fiction of desire and intention.
Eric N. Mack (b. 1987, Columbia, MD) lives and works in New York. He received his BFA from The Cooper Union and his MFA from Yale University.
In 2017, Mack was the recipient of the inaugural BALTIC Artists’ Award selected by artist Lorna Simpson and completed the Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva Island, FL and an artist-in-residency at Delfina Foundation in London. Institutional solo exhibitions have been held at The Power Station, Dallas (2019); Scrap Metal Gallery, Toronto (2019); Brooklyn Museum (2019); BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (2017); and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (2017). Major group exhibitions include the 2019 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2019); Serpentine Gallery, London (2018); Kunsthalle Basel (2017); Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams (2017); Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis (2017); Camden Arts Centre, London (2016) and MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY (2015). Mack’s work is in the permanent collections of Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, NH; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
"What would abolition look like if Anna Murray Douglass was where she should be? What would concert music sound like if Nina Simone were positioned where she should be? What would the world look like if Black women were believed?"
— Kandis Williams
Williams crafts her sculptural collages from artificial plants, which she affixes with images culled from photographs and magazines. Works from this series are currently included in A Field, an exhibition of the artist's work at Virginia Commonwealth University, in which "Williams reminds us of the potential in evasion; that there is power in remaining wild. To evade cultivation is to commit to growth on our own terms; to nurture and be rooted in our desire for change and adaptation."
"These collages, which appear on the plant leaves, depict laboring bodies in action. They include archival photographs of chain gangs on Mississippi farms, many taken from the estate of Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress; pornographic images from vintage magazines—Jet, Players, Sepia, Mr. Long, and Black Legs; and depictions of dancers performing the Uruguayan tango, a choreography conscripted from workers’ traditions. In these overlapping images, sometimes assembled in figurative constructions, a schema is revealed in the relations between labor and performance, performance and sexualization, sexualization and labor.
Plants constitute a life-force subjected to classification and forced migration, remarkable for their persistence and adaptability. The plant is sentient yet silent, subjected to changing environmental demands as it is displaced and commodified. Plants suggest both the ravages of colonialism and a future for life beyond humanity."
(Press release for Kandis Williams: A Field at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, November 6, 2020 – September 12, 2021)
Kandis Williams (b. 1985, Baltimore) has had recent solo shows at Night Gallery, Los Angeles; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; and Ficken 3000, Berlin. In fall 2020, the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond opened Kandis Williams: A Field, a multi-stage solo exhibition curated by Amber Esseiva, which will run through Summer 2021 as part of the museum’s Provocations commission series. Williams is featured in the 2020 edition of the Made in LA biennial at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and The Huntington, San Marino, CA. She is the recipient of the 2021 Grants to Artists award, presented by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New York.
Beyond her creative work, Williams has an active curatorial and pedagogical practice and runs Cassandra Press. Her performances have been mounted in clubs and institutions across the world. She is currently a visiting faculty member at California Institute of the Arts.
Williams lives and works in Los Angeles.
Kevin Beasley (b. 1985, Lynchburg, VA) lives and works in New York.
Beasley’s practice traverses sculpture, photography, sound, and performance. Recent solo exhibitions include A4 Arts Foundation, Cape Town (2020); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2018–2019); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2018); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2017); and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2016–17). Group exhibitions include The Warehouse, Dallas (2020); Baltimore Museum of Art (2019); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2018); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2018); The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (2016); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2015); MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY (2015); and Art Gallery of Ontario (2015).
Beasley has recently performed at venues including The Kitchen, New York (2019); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2018–2019); Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, University of Houston (2017); Art Gallery of Ontario (2016); The Dallas Museum of Art (2015); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2015); Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland (2014); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2014); Queens Museum of Art, New York (2014); and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012).
His work is held in public collections such as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Art Gallery of Ontario; Art Institute of Chicago; Columbus Museum of Art, OH; The Dallas Museum of Art; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; San Antonio Museum of Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Tate Modern, London; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.