Commonwealth and Council

Alex's Room

Carmen Argote


Commonwealth and Council presents Alex's Room by Carmen Argote, a new body of work comprised of sculpture, video, photomontage, painting, and stop-motion animation that combines a hand-me-down, LA version of a Mexican Baroque aesthetic with a cross pollination of cosplay, J-Rock, and resourcefulness.

An intimate collaboration between siblings, Argote takes arrangement as social action to render an interdimensional portrait of her sister, Alejandra Argote, who surrounds herself with a menagerie of signifiers that embraces discursive timelines and economies of taste. Through successive arrangements of objects from her collection, Alex shares a wealth of visuality inflected with an idiosyncratic lexicon of cultural identity. Together, the sisters transform Alex's compact living quarters from a space of containment into a repository of meaning.

Inspired by the objects in the room, Argote introduces playtime to engage with Alex while co-inhabiting her low-income unit in Boyle Heights. In the video, Alex's Room, Alex wears paper mache masks made by the artist as she performs for the camera. Each mask features a prosthetic growth referencing a specific object from the room that functions as a prop to connote a makeshift atmosphere. In response, Alex pairs each segment of the video with a musical score, creating a crescendo of bifurcating moods. Using chroma key, the second video focuses on Alex's hands in relationship to the objects as she considers each arrangement—emphasizing how “Everything is in its place, but everything is everywhere.”

Argote visualizes an expansive multiverse within Alex's room with a series of photomontage that layers a single image in repetition. Emanating from these reverberating fields of stacked objects, Alex in a costume as Princess Mononoke or a planetary orbit come to the fore, inciting a space unbound by the structure of the frame. In an abstracted painting of computer boxes titled Pyramid, the artist constructs a personal monument to storage containers whereas a stop-motion animation playfully mines the indexical trace of the objects inside Alex’s room, suggesting a dialectic between form and its content through outlines of shapes.

Based on the facades of buildings around her sister’s neighborhood, seven altars in the form of theaters are arranged by Alex with objects on loan from her room. For the duration of the exhibition, Alex and Carmen Argote will host “Wampa Wednesday” at the gallery every Wednesday from 1 to 5PM.

Carmen Argote (b. 1981 in México; lives and works in Los Angeles) received her BFA and MFA from University of California, Los Angeles (2004 and 2007 respectively) and is a fellow of Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture. Recent solo exhibitions include: Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles (2016); Adjunct Positions, Los Angeles (2015); MAK Center, Los Angeles (2015); Human Resources, Los Angeles (2014); and Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles (2013). Group exhibitions include: On Inhabiting, Ave 50 Gallery, Los Angeles (2016); The House on Mango Street, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago (2015); Unsparing Quality, Diane Rosenstein Fine Art, Los Angeles (2014); and SUR Biennial, Torrance Art Museum (2013). Argote’s public art commission for the Metro Expo Line (17th St/SMC Station) in Santa Monica opened this month. Her work will be featured in Home—So Different, So Appealing at LACMA as part of Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA in 2017.