It's a simple conceit. You can almost hear the artist thinking it to herself: I'll wear my mother's dresses. Entering Cydonia Gallery's new exhibition by Mexican artist Julieta Aguinaco, The Depth of Now, I found myself jealous. At least her mom kept hers. My mother forever interested in discarding. Yearbook notes from college boyfriends? Gone. Bellbottom jeans from her teenaged disco years? Gone. Heaven forbid she keep 10s of outdated dresses. It wasn't a matter of sartorial embarrassment, but an obsession with keeping it simple. So to see the series of photos of Aguinaco in her mother and grandmother's dresses isn't just about her art and a statement about swiftly changing cultures; "To My Daughter" became about me and my mother.
If the Mexican dresses, which age into "traditional costumes" with new hemlines growing shorter and designs less specifically Mexican through the years, were about an adult American woman with vague heritage, then it should follow that the rest of the exhibition might contain a universality as well. The other works on display inThe Depth of Now were a series of politicized highway signs and abstracted dessert landscapes -paintings of sand mounds, pyramids, and metal fences. The mountains foreign to my Texan landscape, but present in Mexico; the unnatural fences built by America to keep Mexico out. In color, this pair of paintings are evocative of Dali's Clocks. Mounted next to each other, I played a game of spot the difference for a few seconds before I got bored.
The highway signs read like a puzzle, like a map without a legend. They seem to equate revolution and progress and patriotism with directional movement - the arrows, typically signifying an exit, placed under signs for Santa Fe, Chapultepec, and Patrioitismo. Exit here for Holy Faith; exit here for San Rafael. One is written in what I think is Chinese, and suddenly I remember the time I went to Mexico and would've been lost without my local guide. Not only am isolated from the language of these signs, I'm isolated from their meaning, isolated because I come from a different culture. Yet here they are side by side, and here I stand in front of them, attempting to make sense of them, this communication disconnect feeling oddly like the time I worked at a coffee shop with a Chinese teenager to whom I spent many shifts explaining colloquialisms, and he in turn introduced me to the joys of the Asian supermarkets. Cultural collision can be beautiful, but we often take the wrong exit and get lost.
Somewhere between my rumination on the exhibition's three components, of which the most visually interesting was the dresses, I realized that there weren't revelations to be had here. Certainly, the work prompts reflections, but overall the concepts are familiar, and don't lend themselves to particularly compelling art. Bloggable? Yes. But if that truly is The Depth of Now, it's about as disappointing as I expected. But I suppose tomorrow, I'll get out of bed anyway, and put my clothes on, like my mother did before me, and her mother before her.
The Depth of Now remains on display through December 27. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. -6 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. More information at cydoniagallery.com.
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