Two Shows Explore Materials, Culture, and Identity

Naturalized American citizen artists show that, in the empire of art, people can have dual loyalties and resolve their cultural differences.


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At Traywick: Diana Guerrero-Maciá’s The Moon no. 2, 2018, collage on linen.

Photo courtesy Traywick Contemporary

The Trump regime’s cynical demagoguery—the ludicrous “caravan” threat being only the most obvious electoral pandering—has sadly brought nationality and nationalism to the fore. Two naturalized American artists show that, in the empire of art, people can have dual loyalties, and resolve the cultural differences. Ebitenyefa Baralaye from Nigeria and Diana Guerrero-Maciá, a naturalized Cuban-American, demonstrate that art, like life, is best served by a diverse diet; replacement-fearful European-Americans might take note.

Twelve works comprise Baralaye’s No Lie, which takes its title from a glazed stoneware sculpture composed of two adjacent columns of dark, shiny coiled clay. Suggesting both traditional hand-built pottery and an absurd pair of pant legs, it’s humorous yet touching, like the hairy legs in certain Philip Guston paintings. As for the ironic yet sincere title, isn’t art, as Picasso observed, a lie that tells the truth? Dupp Dup is a plaster-and-burlap sculpture in vaguely fetal or larval form, set atop a tripod, its internal organs suggested by tattoo-like designs of sisal rope embedded in the plaster, and exposed by sanding; the title is Caribbean slang for “hello ghost.” Meiping, which takes its name from the Song Dynasty celadon plum vase, with its bird-torso form, is a pair of dark, swelling balloon forms wrapped by implied straps and reminiscent of punching bags or di Chirico’s mannequin heads.

Guerrero-Maciá’s 16 mixed-media pieces in No Other combine digital printing with collaged felt and wool to question the material hierarchies of the art world—i.e., “noble”’ vs. vernacular, base materials—and the second-class status accorded to women and women’s work—The Other—by paternalistic hierarchies. Her witty “hybrid form of painting” combines the geometry of modernist abstraction—the target and rondel forms now suggestive of 45 rpm records—with collaged women’s eyes, ubiquitous in commercial advertising. Backside features two collaged orbs set atop stretcher bars to which linen has been tacked.

No Lie and No Other run through Jan. 19, Traywick Contemporary, 895 Colusa Ave., Berkeley, 510-527-1214, www.Traywick.com.

This report was originally published in our sister publication, the East Bay Monthly.

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