May 29 - September 11, 2022
Los Angeles – Craft Contemporary presents Many featuring twelve Los Angeles-based artists who utilize multiples in their artistic practices. Their works range from traditional, historic techniques such as printmaking and artist books to the practice of specific mark making, repetition of images, or objects to transform their own visual vocabulary into artwork. Several artists accumulate objects or images in reference to capitalist systems of mass production and waste. Together their works exemplify the unique power of multiples to record and disseminate information, amplify narratives, investigate various modes of labor, and return production to the hand of the artist.
Exhibition artists include Zeina Baltagi, Tia Blassingame, Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, John Birtle, Joel Freeman, Pamela Smith Hudson, Saj Issa, Gelare Khoshgozaran, Álvaro D. Márquez, Narsiso Martinez, Stephanie Mercado, and Aryana Minai. While the artworks incorporated in Many range in materials, methods, and their underlying meanings, all the exhibiting artists use their work to make visible the people and labor that capitalist systems try to hide.
Many, installation view, 2022. Courtesy of Craft Contemporary. Photo: Josh Schaedel.
To create her piece, Ablution of Faith and Frustration, Saj Issa meticulously hand-painted thirty- two ceramic tiles and then subsequently scrubbed off much of her delicate glaze work. The work refers to the Islamic practice of physically cleansing oneself as a metaphor for cleansing ones sins. Issa demonstrates the frustrations and endurance that one builds when engaging in labor or prayer and worship. All these acts require repetition and perseverance, and she considers how the concept of frustration is present in all.
Artist Narsiso Martinez addresses the human and environmental costs of the agricultural industry, in which he worked as a laborer for many years. His sensitive drawings of farm workers on produce boxes “contrast the disparities of lifestyles between workers and owners through the usage of symbols, some found on the used boxes and others produced through the art- making process.” In his new series of portraits, Sin Bandana, Martinez depicts the workers without masks, glasses, or other protective equipment for the first time. The absence of masks represents the workers coming out from the shadows, regardless of their circumstances or immigration status, and being fully seen.
Gelare Khoshgozaran refers to themself as an “undiciplinary” artist whose work engages with the legacies of imperial violence and militarization in daily life. Born in Tehran, Iran, Khoshgozaran’s work in Many utilizes arrangements of toy planes cast in aluminum and 3-D printed in steel and copper to create Boneyard, a reference to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, which is the sole aircraft boneyard for all excess U.S. military and government aircraft. This work encapsulates Khoshgozaran’s preoccupation with the violence and waste of war and of U.S. sanctions which prevent Iran from purchasing metals – such as aluminum, steel, and copper – or the necessary parts for plane repairs, thus making air travel within the country incredibly dangerous.
Lastly, Zeina Baltagi, a first-generation Lebanese-American artist and educator, amasses thousands of pennies to symbolize the labor of her own body, immigrants, and women – often in pursuit of the American Dream. The artist punches holes and assembles the pennies to create heavy chain mail-like sculptures which she has worn in performance works that embody the heavy weight of economic mobility. Debuting at Craft Contemporary will be Baltagi’s Token Bitch, 2022, a pressed penny machine. For one dollar, visitors will be able to insert a penny and use their own labor to crank the machine handle – smashing an image of the artist, sporting a keffiyeh scarf and cowboy hat, into the face of the U.S. penny.
In conjunction with Many, the museum organized a print exchange portfolio called Many More, which celebrates the numerous ways prints can be made and shared. The portfolio was generated from an open call to printmakers and print lovers throughout the United States. Each participant sent in one or two print editions and, in exchange, will receive a portfolio of prints by other participants. The full portfolio of approximately 70 prints will be on display at the museum, highlighting how sharing and creating community are inherent in printmaking.
Stephanie Mercado’s Flourish series began as a bouquet of paper flowers being held by a vessel with maids pushing each other forward around the vase in a Sisyphean manner. The bouquets transformed from flowers to household items, with an explosion of maids blossoming, growing and prospering from the vessel. The maids tell a story about power, class, and human relationships. They explore themes of subjugation and the nuances by which people try to maintain their identity, dignity, and independence. Each figure is caught in a place between reality and a world that is deformed and shaped by the people who control their environment and their livelihood.
Stephanie Mercado creates relief prints from individually carved rubber stamps which are hand-printed, incised, and collaged together. She sources imagery online or from books and uses her inventory of printed images to create unexpected and continually evolving narratives that link to feminist and Mesoamerican history and address the relationship between women and labor. In addition to her series about maids, Mercado has also explored other popular female tropes, such as witches, and often incorporates vessels which can be stand-ins for domesticity and the female body in much of art history.
Many and Many More were organized by Holly Jerger, Senior Exhibitions Curator. Many is supported in part by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture and the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs
Located on Los Angeles’ historic Miracle Mile since 1965, Craft Contemporary reveals the potential of craft to educate, captivate, provoke, and empower. With a focus on contemporary art made from craft media and processes, Craft Contemporary presents dynamic exhibitions by established and emerging artists and designers who are often underrepresented in larger art institutions. Through a robust roster of regular programs and events, Craft Contemporary offers creative opportunities for the public to participate in hands-on workshops led by professional artists. Craft Contemporary cultivates an environment for people in Los Angeles to deepen their relationship to art, creativity, and one another. For more information, visit www.craftcontemporary.org. LOCATION: 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036 ADMISSION: FREE every Sunday REGULARLY: $9 for adults; $7 for students, teachers, seniors; free for Craft Contemporary members HOURS: Wednesday - Sunday, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM