Artforum, December 2017 (print)
Pablo Rasgado at Steve Turner
By Kavior Moon
Walls have been a recurring motif in the works of Mexico City–based artist Pablo Rasgado. In his ongoing “Extractions” series, 2006–, Rasgado produces found paintings by lifting off sections of splattered, graffitied, or scuffed walls in outdoor urban spaces using a centuries-old fresco restoration technique called strappo. Unlike other artists who have also taken surfaces found in the streets as subject matter—for example, Brassaï, who made uncanny photographs of scratched drawings and pockmarked surfaces in the streets of midcentury Paris—Rasgado extracts physical segments of facades, preserving and presenting a range of indexical traces, from declarations of political protest to unintentional marks left by anonymous dwellers of his home city. In his more recent series “Unfolded Architecture,” 2007–, Rasgado repurposes used slabs of drywall from venues where he has previously shown, transforming temporary walls discarded at the end of exhibitions into architectural sculptures and functional structures on which other works of art are hung.
In his recent show at Steve Turner, “This Too Shall Pass,” Rasgado constructed a mazelike installation and selected a group of works by other artists to exhibit within it. Many of these artists hailed from Los Angeles, as well as from cities in Latin America (such as Zapopan, Mexico, and Mercedes, Argentina), in a nod to the Getty Foundation–sponsored, multivenue Pacific Standard Time art program concurrently taking place. A number of the works on view in this exhibition-within-an-
exhibition used nonprecious, often mundane materials in abstract forms that recalled processes of destruction and transformation. In Luciana Lamothe’s Untitled, 2017, for instance, a grid of steel couplers and rusted pipes, slashed open at regular intervals, suggested both material obsolescence and the building of infrastructure. In Brian Rochefort’s ceramic pieces—Bull Head, Large Conch, Red Skull, and Skull Planter, all 2017—ready-made terra-cotta objects were covered with grotesquely colorful layers of glaze, their original forms rendered unrecognizable. Graham Collins’s Untitled, 2015, was made from found paintings purchased in thrift stores, which the artist cut up and dynamically recomposed into an irregular polyhedral shape. On the gallery’s back wall hung Kelly Kleinschrodt’s restkonstellati on I, 2017, a photogram of minuscule shards of clear glass spread out against a dark field, the residue of a pulverized object memorialized into a shimmering image. The show took a geopolitical turn with Emilio Chapela’s Euroasiaamérica, 2014, a mash-up of the silhouettes of various nation-states and continents to create a new, discombobulated world map.
Other works in the exhibition explored the sensation of time passing and the irreversible flow of history. Tim Hawkinson’s World Clock, 2012, was a medicine cabinet filled with everyday objects, such as a nail clipper and a pill bottle, all embedded with clock gears and hands set to different time zones across the globe. For Matthew Brandt’s gum bichromate print711376Fu3, ‘Manhattan: 16th Street (west)-8th Avenue: 1931, 2014, which showed an archival image of a no longer extant building in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, the artist used dust from the titular site as pigment in the printing process. Similarly, a rotating display of postcards—selected by Rasgado from gallery owner Steve Turner’s personal collection—presented black-and-white photographs of farmlands, neighborhoods, and buildings in the Los Angeles area that have since been razed and redeveloped.
Times are indeed a-changing. The specter of walls also haunts the news. What once seemed a ludicrous campaign promise by Donald Trump is now on the horizon of the possible for the current administration. While two of Allen Ruppersberg’s silk-screened Poster Objects from 1988, respectively asking WHAT SHOULD I DO? and WHERE SHOULD I GO?, might have seemed humorous when originally exhibited twenty years ago, in the current political climate these questions cut close to home, particularly for those living in the US whose right to remain here is being undermined. Propped up on a pedestal at the very front of the exhibition was a work by Rasgado that seemed to anticipate the anxiety these queries might instill in the viewer: a copper penny altered by the artist that, in place of IN GOD WE TRUST, soberly reads THIS TOO SHALL PASS.