As a leading Los Angeles art figure and longtime champion for contemporary art, architecture, and design, Merry Norris is curating an exhibition, entitled SHEvening, featuring new work by Los Angeles based artists Tanya Aguiñiga and Nancy Baker Cahill.
While already familiar with the respective aesthetics of both Aguiñiga and Baker Cahill, Norris discovered a brilliant dialog between the artists' works at an art contest sponsored by Herradura Tequila in the fall of 2014. Without a gallery of her own, Norris decided to take action by creating her own forum, MERRYSPACE, to exhibit them together.
SHEvening is an exhibition concept developed by Tanya Aguiñiga and Nancy Baker Cahill to examine the art and issues of SHE. In this evening stretched into a month, Aguiñiga’s and Baker Cahill’s works explore body-related themes related to fulfillment and emptiness, form, and void. Holes appear in both artists’ works, configured as gaps, empty vessels, orifices, and ambiguous portals. The artists were inspired by these themes in candid discussions about art-making and motherhood, giving birth, and having, or lacking, a uterus. Their work alludes to questions of freedom—is the hole a gateway, or a dead end?, transformation—are we more whole, having been emptied, or less?, and unstable forms; “dependable” vessels which teeter, feather-like wall sculptures that threaten flight. Each piece in the exhibition embodies the delicate tension between strength and vulnerability, energy, and stasis.
Both artists work with remnants to create and collaborate. Aguiñiga weaves wall hangings from deconstructed industrial materials, while Baker Cahill uses her own torn drawings to create her wall sculptures. The artists join forces on a sculptural pedestal / table piece. Aguiñiga weaves from unraveled rope and pieces of Baker Cahill’s drawings. In this sense they seek to subvert the idea of “women’s work.” Complicating it by including loss—things torn, sliced, pieced together, holes left yawning open, yet rendering objects and artworks that are fully, wholly realized.
Aguiñiga took some time to discuss her latest project:
I'd love to hear how you feel this is perhaps different from your previous work.
TA: This show was really different from previous in the way that Nancy and I collaborated throughout the making of the work. I have done collaborations before but none in which each artist was inspired by each others' work but still retained autonomy in their individual making as related to materials and discipline. Nancy and I both went into the endeavor without ego or agenda, and really tried to support each other and create the show from a place of solidarity and admiration.
Your work has been both extremely colorful and then you also have pieces that are monochrome. Could you let us know how you approached color in this show?
TA: I thought about including color in the beginning of my ideation, but it made more sense to stick with a neutral palette that was true to the materials that I was working with, and complemented Nancy's black and white works.
How did you approach the process with Nancy Baker Cahill? Was it done together or remotely?
TA: We made the work completely in conversation with each other from beginning to end. We have been friends for almost a decade, and it was not until Merry Norris thought of [it], that we saw how well our pieces work together. Our studios are in the same complex, so we visited each other's studios almost daily to be inspired by each other.
And how did you decide how the work conversed with each other in the space?
TA: The way the show was arranged was decided on the spot with the exception of the big wall install I did. I have never had a chance to work on such a high and pristine wall so I decided to make a large sight specific installation on the largest wall. The pieces are sold individually, but I envisioned it as one piece. As far as the flow of the show goes, we wanted it to have our works complement each other, but still give enough space and attention to our individual voices.
SHEvening at MERRYSPACE Gallery
Friday and Saturday, 11-6, and weekdays by appointment
Artist Talk Saturday, May 23, 1 pm
2754 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
All photos were taken by Gina Clyne Photography