Sunday, February 11, 2018

Genevieve Gaignard at Ace Hotel (Prospect.4), Queer Tropics at Gallery X

“Identity” has been a hot topic in much of America since at least the 1960s. Los Angeles-based artist Genevieve Gaignard's exploration of her bi-racial identity was inspired by her Creole father and white mother. Her two room installation in the Ace Hotel lobby is inviting and accessible: you can walk in and make yourself at home. One room, top, reflects her father’s family roots in Nola via a tidy vintage living room adorned with family photos, bowling trophies and a classic 1960s dual portrait of president John F. Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King flanking three modern photo portraits of Creole women wearing tignons, the once mandatory colonial-era head coverings that black women subversively transformed into chic fashion statements. Here the three women appear as icons of cultural memory, timeless observers whose wary gazes remind us that history is never entirely past, but lives on in an endless variety of ways. Another space with church pews, mirrors and Gaignard's self portraits as characters reflecting a range of racial, regional and cultural variations suggests an old time chapel reborn as a space for pondering the fluid, situational nature of identity, a theme Gaignard renders with a colorful mix of irony, humor and pathos.
Queer Tropics, curated by Charlie Tatum, illustrates how the way the Western world romanticizes  the tropics in many ways parallels how LGBT people have long been portrayed as “exotic” in the fever dreams of the Western imagination. Here the mythology of the tropics as a realm of abandon, lassitude and “southern decadence” infuses an array of works by eight artists including some intriguing videos by Carlos Motta examining the legacy of early the Spanish missionaries' encounters with indigenous peoples, as well as some strategically surreal graphical works by Joiri Minaya, Adrienne Elise Tarver and Victoria Martinez, whose colorful floor to ceiling tapestry inspired by her Mexican neighborhood in Chicago conveys something of America's own new found exoticism. ~Bookhardt / Grassroots: Photographs Exploring Biracial Identity by Genevieve Gaignard (Prospect.4), Through February 24, Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet St., 900-1180; Queer Tropics: Group Exhibition Exploring Identity and the Tropics, Through Feb. 25, Gallery X, 1612 O.C. Haley Blvd., 252-0136.