There is the work in our minds, the work in our hands, and the work as a result.
I type Guadalupe Rosales’ childhood address into Google Maps. On the initial return East Los Angeles appears, as seen from above. I am flying into LAX looking out the window in the middle of an afternoon. Residential blocks and curves take up most of the frame, with what appear to be strip malls and a school or two filling out the bottom-left quadrant of my browser screen. The red flag marking my destination lies about two blocks south of Whittier Boulevard, a stretch of highway that historically formed part of El Camino Real, the long road that once connected the twenty-one missions of Alta California. I zoom in a little and things take on shape. I see yards and greenbelts and center lanes. One more click and there are shadows under trees. Buildings reveal their dimensions. Another two zooms and cars are at curbs under voltage poles and wires. Perceived distance is collapsing. I fumble my way through Street View, that pseudo-excursion, and head north toward the rounded façade of a shuttered carniceria, where the intersection widens onto Whittier. There is a payphone against the fresh taupe exterior.
Guadalupe has told me about this phone. Once, when her sister was banned from the family landline, she went out in the night to call a friend. A man approached her and, pointing a gun at her with one hand, pulled out his penis with the other and made her take a look. That, nearly twenty years ago, was “when my sister postal on him.”[ii] I’ve seen an image of the corner before, taken from an earlier Street Team, apparently, as the screenshot Guadalupe sent me shows a dingier phone against the dingier wall of the then still-in-business carniceria. The remembrance of things past now sporadically, digitally, updated.
The plane landed with such a jolt that I had to wonder if Beirut was not still expressing itself with full violence… After 12 years of absence, my heart is tight… Everything was familiar to me. Everything. I was immediately enveloped in that feeling of relaxed resignation which says that things are the way they are. I was merely a pair of eyes, benevolent ones of course, in the indescribable pleasure of being at home.
-Etel Adnan, 1991[iii]
Guadalupe Rosales left California for New York City twelve years ago, and this exhibition marks the first showing of her work in Los Angeles. “Almost like having two worlds collide.”[iv] Incidentally, she has taken to stalking locations, using Google Earth to cruise over, onto, and virtually near the terrain of her upbringing. Alleyways, playgrounds, gymnasiums: some sites are mundane, others resonate with personal trauma and violence. When we look back, what are we looking for?
In order to visualize nostalgia, imagine thin beams of light extending from a person—here, the artist in her Brooklyn studio, trying to come to terms with aspects of the past through time, distance, and the Internet. The Internet, meanwhile, is constructing a memory of its own, a public realm for each of us to access and add to; it is an archive that is always being built just as it sidles up to, borrows from, and effects our memories. When mourning his beloved mother, Roland Barthes wrote, “We don’t forget, but something vacant settles in us.”[v] This vacancy disquiets, and the simulated revisiting of our own little swathes of the surface of the Earth surely soothes, and stokes, our longings. When one’s interior act of remembering is navigated by such recall-prosthesis, how might those threads of light—time, distance, grief—bend, intersect, become different?
On the occasion of 3 x Abstraction: New Methods of Drawing by Hilma af Klimt, Emma Kunz, and Agnes Martin (The Drawing Center, NYC, 2005), co-curator Catherine de Zegher made claim for the analogous practices of the artists—one of whom, Martin, had died just weeks before the opening. “Engaging in the repetition of certain distinct geometrical shapes (square, triangle, circle, etc…) marking the experiential, the spiritual, and the infinite through recurring structures of linear patterns, the three artists believed that abstraction might be a means for achieving higher cognitive levels inextricably linked to the forces and processes of life.”[vi]
Let’s think of drawing as a salve that might become a meditation; one’s line a private language in which movement precedes meaning. In making there may be longing, lostness, intuition. “I start from the center and let that guide me,” Guadalupe wrote in a recent email.“I am thinking about the beginning of a drawing.”[vii]
Rendered in fine gold pen on inexpensive black construction paper, the four nine-by-twelve-inch drawings included in this exhibition look at once delicate and rough-hewn, computer-drafted and intimate. The shapes displayed are variations on a theme of strict lines beveling into bottom-heavy cones and two-dimensional diamonds. Appealing in the manner of symmetry, the drawings are coy and hint at their own internal logic. Each straight gold line gets plucked at its middle and, in some cases, ricochets inward without release or conclusion. The non-archival paper shows signs of age (all works, 2011) and has bleached and purpled in places. Photographically, these surfaces could be read as undergoing a real slow exposure.