Eso Eres / Marea

Video Still from Eso Eres. Image Courtesy of Maria Rondeau and Rafael Rondeau.

My introduction to the work of Rafael Rondeau and Maria Rondeau occurred last summer in Close Distance—a terrific group exhibition highlighting six emerging Boston-area Latino artists. That summer at the Mills Gallery, we saw videos that explored architecture and its ability to frame our experience of place. Once again, this brother and sister duo have collaborated on two separate, experimental video installations that explore the synthesis between the intimate and the public, by engaging structure, image and sound.

Maria, a practicing architect and artist and Rafael, a violinist and composer—have furthered their work with Eso Eres and Marea, two non-narrative, fully immersive works that re-examine and question the spaces we inhabit.

Eso Eres, is projected on a suspended light screen with a reflective mylar background set five feet away from the wall. The video captures a man running along a linear path, but instead of seeing the man’s entire body, we only see his face–an attempt on behalf of the artists to locate a visage as a “place.”

Video Still from Marea. Image Courtesy of Maria Rondeau and Rafael Rondeau.

 Marea, the longest and most immersive of the two videos captures a social encounter—a man sitting at a table in what appears to be an outdoor restaurant overlooking one of New York City’s neighborhoods. Projected on two elongated screens that trace the perimeter of a table—the video holds both foreground and background in focus, creating a sweeping and fluid movement that wraps around the viewer—who is encouraged to weave in and out of both installations. The sound, conceived by Rafael not only considers the spaces projected in these two installations, but also the gallery space where these works are shown.

From the sound of a string quartet—composed and performed by Rafael—to the hustle and bustle of a rural market in Guatemala—to the murmured prayers of women at a pre-Colonial church, Marea takes you on journeys near and far in the span of 10 minutes. The images and sounds in these two videos often collide with one another to awaken and alter our senses, prompting us to reconsider the spaces we experience on a daily basis.

Eso Eres/Marea is on view until March 02, 2012 at La Galeria at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts in the South End.

A Twitter Response on Art Criticism – The Transcript

The January 27th, 2012, Boston Globe review of the deCordova Biennial caused quite a stir in the Boston artscene– Critic Sebastian Smee’s first sentence tells us why:

Horrible news to have to share (brace yourselves), but the second deCordova Biennial – the preeminent survey of contemporary art made by artists living and working in New England – is a major letdown.

Boston artist and Gloucester MacDowell Colony Fellow 2009-10 Rachel Perry Welty responded to Mr. Smee’s criticism by writing a letter to the Editor. In it, Ms. Welty writes “If Smee could spend more time looking thoughtfully and less time writing reviews “coddled in cleverness’’ (his words) we might all learn something.”

I agree with Rachel Perry Welty. If we all spend more time looking and less talking, writing about or tweeting an exhibition—rather than dismissing a work because we don’t like it or it isn’t our favorite—we may learn a lot about ourselves and maybe in the process transform the way we experience art.

The conversation on art criticism did not end with Ms. Welty’s letter to the Editor. Instead, we continued it over on Twitter where a thoughtful discussion emerged. This is the transcript of the talk. If I have missed a tweet or two, please forgive me as it was a challenge to collect all of them for this transcript.


Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
The kind of “criticism” Smee does for the Globe does nothing for #BostonArts. Great letter by @rpwelty
10:39 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
He described himself as being a bully. There’s a difference between being a bully & being critical. Be critical & not a bully. #BostonArts
10:41 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
Some of these #BostonArts critics make me feel zzZZZZzzzzz.
10:42 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
I don’t waste my time writing/blogging about things that bore me to death or things I hate & make me want to scream. #BostonArts
10:47 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
Why? I don’t get paid & it’ll just make me a miserable human being. Some of Smee’s criticism make him sound miserable & pompous.#BostonArts
10:49 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
I haven’t ranted in a while, but how can #BostonArts grow with bullies out here just waiting to attack?! There’s no growth!
10:51 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
I never finished reading his “critique” of the @deCordovaSPandM Biennial. So sickening. When will we ever learn that being a bully isn’t OK?
10:55 AM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@EvolvingCritic For critic, who’s more important? Artists or readers (art’s audience)? Crit of Smee may b valid, but he writes for reader.
11:01 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
.@CRHolland I get it, but what good does it do #BostonArts, saying things along the lines of “I have better things to do on a Saturday?”
11:08 AM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
.@evolvingcritic @CRHolland Good criticism is absolutely necessary in Boston, but the scene is too small for critics not to take risks too

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
@CRHolland his writing makes me not want to support #bostonarts, but I know better of course, others may not and they’re being fed his words
11:10 AM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@EvolvingCritic re: “others may not and they’re being fed his words” Have faith in readers. If u keep fighting 4 better crit. It will come.
11:30 AM – 13 Feb 12

Rachel Perry Welty @rpwelty
The Boston Globe published my letter to the Editor today. Bitter cold brisk walk around Village. Studio time on LIML projects. Venison stew.
11:58 PM – 12 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
.@rpwelty I am impressed with you for taking this stand. Bullying does hinder artistic risk-taking #Bostonarts
11:09 AM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@EvolvingCritic Don’t make me sound like I’m defending him. :-)
11:16 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
.@CRHolland I’m not making you sound like you’re defending him. We’re having a convo and if ppl are interest they can read the thread. :)
11:18 AM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@EvolvingCritic He wrote “I missed this particular spectacle, having other things to do most Saturdays…” Not good, but not “better things.”
11:15 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
@CRHolland that’s why I said “along the lines of” because I didn’t have the letter in front of me to copy.
11:19 AM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@EvolvingCritic I was responding to what Welty wrote in her letter. (wasn’t aimed at you)
11:25 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
@CRHolland no no I didn’t get that impression at all. I knew you were responding to Welty.
12:09 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@EvolvingCritic I think @rpwelty weakened her argument against @SebastianSmee‘s “‘criticism’” by suggesting that artists are victims of it.
11:17 AM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
Don’t entirely disagree w @SebastianSmees dislike for ‘lightweight gestures of cling film conceptualism’ cc: @EvolvingCritic Will have to see
11:26 AM – 13 Feb 12

Montserrat Gallery @montgallery
RT @S_Cardon: .@evolvingcritic @CRHolland What is “good criticism”?

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
Devoting as much attention the idea of a work as to its formal qualities, for one thing. RT @montgallery: What is “good criticism”?
11:40 AM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@montgallery Good criticism = Clearly stated ideas backed by valid arguments – According to my 10th grade English teacher :-)
11:40 AM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
meant to say: Devoting as much attention TO the idea of a work as to its formal qualities @montgallery What is “good” criticism?
11:45 AM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland I think that RPW is dealing with only one part of smee’s issues and that doesn’t weaken that part of the argument(s).
11:48 AM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@montgallery good criticism is plausible, surprising, and compelling.
11:49 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
@S_Cardon @SebastianSmee I don’t entirely disagree either with what I read. I didn’t finish it though, so I’m honest about that.
12:10 PM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
Furthermore @montgallery – good critics don’t equate “I don’t like it” with “it’s bad”. Sometimes the stuff we recoil from gives us the most
12:13 PM – 13 Feb 12

Ricardo De Lima @rdelima
I, fan of polemic, don’t find fault with @SebastianSmee criticism of the deCordova show. The Boston art scene is where Ponzi meets Polyanna
12:16 PM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
Doesn’t the Ponzi follow from the tiny amount of art critics to begin with? RT @rdelima: The Boston art scene is where Ponzi meets Polyanna
12:26 PM – 13 Feb 12

a @quipped
Objective. @montgallery What is “good” criticism?
12:26 PM – 13 Feb 12

a @quipped
Oh, and balanced. It’s important to understand the intent to judge the result. @montgallery What is “good” criticism?
12:35 PM – 13 Feb 12

a @quipped
I think critisism forces it to function outside of a vacuum. Gives it legs. “@montgallery what is criticism meant to do for the art?
1:46 PM – 13 Feb 12

Montserrat Gallery @montgallery
@quipped isn’t art criticism within Art vacuum? Almost 2 distinct responsibilities 1 critique work + curators, 2 connect readers to the work
1:59 PM – 13 Feb 12

a @quipped
@montgallery I think it can be, but the purpose or function is to release it from the artist, to discuss in order to liberate it.
2:01 PM – 13 Feb 12

a @quipped
@montgallery I think if art critique is a vacuum itself, perhaps we are paying to much attention to the artist, not the art.
2:02 PM – 13 Feb 12

Ricardo De Lima @rdelima
@S_Cardon Not enough critics, so I find it a service when those five or six souls and their deadlines don’t collude with the locals.
12:35 PM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
@rdelima agreed. Don’t think today’s polemic criticizes criticism per say only the prima donna approach enabled by critical scarcity.
12:42 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper But for RPW’s closing, we have to accept that crit is for artists & there4 artists r victims of bad criticism, which I don’t buy.
12:49 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland Fair enough, but i think that her point is that when it’s not ‘good’ he’d rather shit on something than think about it.
12:51 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper But I see what you mean!
12:52 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland I think that criticism should be met like praise, thanks them but consider the source. Not everyone’s positive opinion is helpful
1:03 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper excellent point.
1:05 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland Also are you saying that bad criticism has no consequences for an artist? or their career?
1:04 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper Well, if it’s simply poorly argued/written criticism, the consequences (good/bad) will be less significant for an artist’s career
1:10 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper I am, however, concerned if artists think they are the victims of poor writing/criticism. The readers are the bigger losers.
1:12 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland I think artists get so little public feedback that you hope they are at least fair or competently written, right?
1:17 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper I suppose we can only keep trying to perfect the publishing model…
1:28 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
.@johnpyperI think my biggest problem w/ltr is suggestion that people can’t create “groundbreaking work” due to some sort of oppression
1:17 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland what happens when an artist finally gets a solo show and the only review is from a hack? You seem smaller as a professional
1:18 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper Thankfully, there are venues like this one where we can analyze both RPW and Smee’s words and come to our own conclusions.
1:29 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland I think people confuse critics with art history. No one remembers your review. and no historian will use it to define you.
1:19 PM – 13 Feb 12

Montserrat Gallery @montgallery
@quipped @S_Cardon @EvolvingCritic @johnpyper @CRHolland: we feel you, thanks for ur replies! now what is criticism meant to dO for the art?
1:31 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@montgallery Critics are voluntary media (mediums?) btwn art and audience. They provide understanding, context, validity to art for readers.
1:52 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@montgallery See Austin Chronicle which @salvocheque just pointed out.
1:53 PM – 13 Feb 12

Ricardo De Lima @rdelima
@CRHolland @johnpyper I feel long-term philosophical/aesthetic champions rather than the occasional detractor is a bigger career factor.
1:32 PM – 13 Feb 12

Montserrat Gallery @montgallery
@CRHolland agreed – always think that if this is the case, more museum/gallery educators should be writing for the papers.
1:57 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@montgallery Lol. Sounds like a conflict of interest. Although… maybe museums should hire unemployed critics to blog for them. :-)
2:00 PM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
@crholland @montgallery Conflict of interest maybe, but it does mean all of that in-depth research and writing gets buried in catalogues.
2:40 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@S_Cardon Catalogs are, unfortunately, one of the few publishing models that can support in-depth research.
3:06 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@S_Cardon Moreover, I think newspaper journalists and museum/gallery educators dive to similar depths of research given their constituencies
3:09 PM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
@crholland Are you comparing the general art-crowd to small children ;-)
3:16 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
Whenever possible! RT @S_Cardon: Are you comparing the general art-crowd to small children ;-)
3:19 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@S_Cardon Curators, on the other hand, get to have all the research fun.
3:11 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
Curators or critics? MT @rdelima I feel long-term philosophical/aesthetic champions rather than occasional detractor is bigger career factor
1:58 PM – 13 Feb 12

Ricardo De Lima @rdelima
@CRHolland those two intellectual breeds are more similar to me than they are different. I’ll take one of each and an order of fries.
2:11 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@rdelima @CRHolland critic as tastemaker is dead if you ask me. curators still get that status sometimes.
2:13 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper @rdelima Maybe this is why there are so many artists/critics/curators these days. And this business
2:16 PM – 13 Feb 12

Ricardo De Lima @rdelima
@johnpyper @CRHolland critic as tastemaker will largely absent until someone invents the pitchfork of the art world.
2:22 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@rdelima But teenagers don’t buy art. ;)
2:23 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@rdelima @CRHolland artists and critics are too nerdy to find enough writers. Otherwise, we’d have been musicians.
2:33 PM – 13 Feb 12

salvador castillo @salvocheque
@CRHolland @montgallery @S_Cardon @evolvingcritic Got some more art crit discussion if interested
2:43 PM – 13 Feb 12

A Conversation: William Cordova at the Boston Center for the Arts

William Cordova, the House that Frank Lloyd Wright built for Fred Hampton y Mark Clark, 2006 (installation view, Arndt & Partner, Berlin, 2006). Wood, books and suspended drawing, dimensions variable. Collection of the artist; courtesy Arndt & Partner Berlin

Born in Lima, Peru and raised in Miami, Florida, William Cordova is an internationally known artist practicing across multiple disciplines. Having earned his BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996 and his MFA from Yale University in 2004, Mr. Cordova has exhibited at MoMA PS1, the 2008 Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial and Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston among many other national and international museums and galleries. Mr. Cordova was just awarded $25,000 as part of the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s 2011 Painters and Sculptors Grant Program.

The Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts is currently hosting William Cordova’s first solo exhibition in the city curated by Evan J. Garza—the Exhibitions and Public Programs Coordinator for the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  On view until April 15th, this one’s 4U (pa’ nosotros) brings together new and recent works in sculpture, installation, video and works on paper that give meaning to the past in a contemporary context.

On Friday February 10, 2012 an informal conversation was held at the BCA’s Plaza Theater with William Cordova, Evan J. Garza and Jose Falconi, Curator for the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.

Mr. Garza opened the conversation by briefly introducing Cordova’s the House that Frank Lloyd Wright Built for Fred Hampton y Mark Clark, a structure made of two by fours that remakes the apartment layout of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, two Black Panther members killed by the Chicago Police. The work, which is included in the exhibition at The Mills Gallery, formed the foundation for this Boston show.

William on his process and the evolution of the House that Frank Lloyd Wright Built for Fred Hampton y Mark Clark:

There are different ways that that piece evolved. In general, I’m interested in architecture and how to represent ideas of resistance through architecture. I’m often gravitating to material history that can represent that or does represent that.

I’m trying to activate certain materials, certain histories for us to reconsider ourselves, how we sometimes are seeing it from a detached perspective. While it may not be happening to us, we assume we have no relationship to that history or that situation, but in actuality, we are probably a lot closer than not.

I tend to create a lot of parallels even in the title, “Frank Lloyd Wright,” “Fred Hampton,” “Mark Clark.” Those relationships may not necessarily be obvious. The way I wanted to approach these projects or art making, was not by limiting myself to making a representation of an image or a situation by making a painting and putting it up on a wall. I wanted to provoke or challenge the way we think and painting can do that, I don’t think it would have been enough for what I wanted to do.

I was thinking about building materials, structures, symbols that represent something in transition.

I am sure everyone is familiar seeing a house—half-way built before there are dry walls; before the electrical parts are installed; before the roof. What I wanted to do was show that first part where you have the foundation and stop there; suggest to the viewer, to provoke them questions. What’s next? Are you going to add something else? Why isn’t there something else in here? Why does it suppose to be revealing?  What does that have to do in relationship to the title, to the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, to the individuals—the activists.

The piece in a way is a transitional piece, is a labyrinth, it’s also a monument, it’s a shrine.  It has different entry points; it’s also very layered. It isn’t specifically about one thing—it isn’t about Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, Frank Lloyd Wright—but about many situations or histories.

The conversation then shifted to the idea of forgotten historical narratives and how we perceive monuments. This part of the discussion focused on the installation the House that Frank Lloyd Wright Built for Fred Hampton y Mark Clark. Cordova discussed his interest in language as it develops in his works, in particular in the title piece of the exhibition this one’s 4U (pa’ nosotros)—a video-sound installation that juxtaposes audio from Federico Garcia Hurtado’s  1984 film Tupac Amaru and video from the documentary by Peter Spirer Thug Angel—about Tupac Amaru Shakur.

William Cordova on language, its meaning, and how titles emerge in his works:

I’m interested in language. I am interested in language and how we interpret it. How we communicate. I am interested in presence and how that is represented or how we represent with others. But I am also aware that in our society of the condition of trying to divide things, categorize and separate and so we might not be able to relate to one another because we’re conditioned just to have certain divisions, even though they may not inherently be there.

I’m more interested in the commonalities than the divisions. I am interested in writing and literature; that’s a big influence in my work.

Untitled (geronimo I & II), 2006-2012. Reclaimed paper bag, feathers, aerosol can. Courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

Mr. Cordova on the lyrical quality in his titles:

I try to appeal to many different groups, many different audiences and a lot of it is through written word. Some of it is more abstract, some of it is more literal—in order to appeal to as many people as possible.

I incorporate popular culture imagery to a certain extent. I don’t want to promote it or rely on it when I question it and slow it down—how we consume that type of imagery or any type of imagery. A lot of times visual art is considered entertainment. It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, you get it?—and then you move on. It shouldn’t be about that.

Certain work rely more on certain titles, but I am not relying on the title to do the work for the visual art.

The work that I do is completely installation based, so all the works and all the components are in conversation and isolated they may not function the same way. It is really important that all the ingredients are in the same bowl. Otherwise certain things might not necessarily trigger the initial idea I had in mind, but it is all open for interpretation. It just depends on how we are conditioned to absorb, receive or interpret it.

this is not 4 U (I miss U already...), 2009 Aluminum foil, cardboard, reclaimed Plexiglas, tape 17 x 29.5 x 7 inches 43.2 x 74.9 x 17.8 cm. Courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

Mr. Cordova on the concept of temporality and how he treats the life of the object he creates (there is a work influenced by the Nazca lines in the window space of the gallery that was created specifically for this show and for that space—therefore will not exist in any other gallery or museum):

A lot of times we rely on digital cameras or digital recordings and everything comes really quick. We don’t necessarily take time to value that moment. When we see something, we to start taking pictures with our phones—and there is something that is lost when we have so much access. It’s like always having candy in a bowl–you won’t desire it because it’s always there. I did this site-specific piece on the floor of the institution [Mills Gallery] and I wanted to represent something that is very close to me, but at the same time it is not something that can be transported and displayed somewhere else. I didn’t want to put any type of financial or superficial value to it. I wanted it to exist. It is not something that you see at every installation. It depends on the space.

The conversation ended with the concept of constellations and how we form our own ideas of representations. Mr. Garza commented on William’s ability to take points that exist in different points in time and in space and connect them to create bridges between them. These connections and bridges are observed throughout this exhibition at Mills Gallery.

This talk  illuminated many of the works in this exhibition and allowed those in attendance to search for a deeper meaning in Mr. Cordova’s works. William Cordova provided a framework to not only better understand the House that Frank Lloyd Wright Built for Fred Hampton y Mark Clark, but also invited us to draw our own parallels with this and other works within the exhibition. William Cordova: this one’s 4U (pa’ nosotros) is on view until April 15, 2012.