Harold Mendez: Let us gather in a flourishing way | Stanya Kahn: No Go Backs

1717 East 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA
Sep 26, 12 AM - 6 PM — ends Jan 10, 2021
Harold Mendez: Let us gather in a flourishing way
September 26, 2020–January 10, 2021

Let us gather in a flourishing way is the first Los Angeles solo museum presentation of artist Harold Mendez (b. 1977, Chicago). Borrowing its title from a poem by Juan Felipe Herrera, the exhibition will include a selection of approximately 20 works by Mendez made over the past decade as well as newly produced works. Working between photography and sculpture, Mendez explores the tension between fiction and truth, visibility and absence, with an interest in how constructions of history and geography shape our sense of self.

A first-generation American of Mexican-Colombian descent, his work often considers the transnational experience, ritual, and cultural memory. Mendez’s large format two-dimensional works transform found photographs through a laborious manual transfer process similar to lithography. Using charcoal or graphite to build the surface, Mendez both traces and erases archival imagery with specific sociocultural or art historical references to create otherworldly new images. Mendez’s sculptures take found objects, industrial goods, or symbolic organic matter—such as eucalyptus bark, bone, or cochineal pigment—to examine identity and place; certain works become living rather than static objects, requiring the daily replenishment of water or flower petals. While experimenting with dramatic shifts in scale and unorthodox materials, Mendez’s excavatory approach to production is a process of unearthing and transforming that highlights the tenuous relationship between history and its representation.

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Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary artist Stanya Kahn (b. 1968, San Francisco) works primarily in film and video, with a practice that includes drawing, sound, performance, sculpture and writing. Humor, pathos, and the uncanny are central to Kahn’s hybrid approach to moving image, which seeks to reorient relationships between fiction and document, the real and hyper-real, and varied expressions of time. Known for using improvisation and candid, real life scenarios, Kahn’s projects often center language as part of a long-term investigation of how rhetoric gains and loses power, as well as the impact of socio-political conditions on lived experience. This exhibition comprises three works by Kahn produced over the past ten years, including her latest short film, No Go Backs (2020), marking its Los Angeles debut. Together, these videos present an urgent reflection of our times, foregrounding global concerns such as climate change, racism, state power, and rebellion with the artist’s singular humor and embrace of experimental time and narrative.
Completed earlier this year, No Go Backs (2020), shot on Super 16mm film with an original sound score and no dialogue, follows two teenagers (and real life friends) who leave the city for the wild. Traveling north into the Eastern Sierra’s monumental landscapes, the pair traverse the haunted precarity of a collapsed world, in dreamlike states of distraction, malaise, and resilience. Braving harsh weather systems and difficult terrain minimally prepared, they travel quietly along sites connected to California’s historic water wars in the early 1900’s—conflicts between farmers, ranchers, and Los Angeles city government over water diversion projects which still impact the region today. The two eventually encounter other youth along the way, forming camaraderie in facing the unknown. A timely indictment of current crises and a meditation on an uncertain future, No Go Backs is a compressed, allegorical epic about an entire generation that must make a new way forward.