Commonwealth and Council presents Heartbeats, an exhibition comprising Patricia Fernández’s explorations of perception and embodiment of temporality, in a year when time felt indeterminate or elastic. Hand-carved clocks and paintings of lunar calendars manifest her continual efforts to mark time amid uncertainty and isolation, pondering systems of timekeeping and a sense of simultaneity.
Retreats from Los Angeles to the rural desert, mountains, and valleys of California—the Mojave, the Cascade Range, the Long Valley Caldera—led Fernández to perceive time abstractly. Activities like walking and raking the land began to take over her days; as the need to regulate everyday life waned, so did the utility of measuring time. Gradually, she began removing the clocks’ hands, and timekeeping itself came instead to stand for the ambiguity of time—the feeling of time passing. The clocks, each beating out a different rhythm, signify a pace unique to the individual, like a heartbeat: an internal clock.
Fernández became drawn to the unobtrusive: waiting periods, desert debris—things that persist outside our notions of land, progress, or history. Created during the perpetuity of lockdown, the objects in Heartbeats posit an interstitial significance, arising from the in-betweens. Fernández affixed various objects, found either in the landscape or in her personal archive, to the face of each clock. She raked the land, unearthing rocks and wood, as well as buried pieces of tin which she then used as painting surfaces. Assembled together, these bits and pieces amalgamate to an indeterminate provenance, derived from natural processes (rocks, formed through volcanic upheavals, eroded pocket-sized by water, fire, and wind; wood spalled off trees and bleached by the sun) and from the artist’s personal history (pieces of wood carved by her grandfather in Spain; remnants culled from her own past work). Fernández’s practice foregrounds this kind of salvage: several paintings, begun 2009-10 and completed in 2020, record shapes originally drawn in travel sketchbooks, dating as far back as 2000. Fernández sculpted these shapes in clay, then rendered them back into two dimensions in the paintings. The clay studies have since been destroyed, the paintings the only remaining index of these actions and processes.
Heartbeats imbricates various threads of history into layered confusions of time, encapsulated into objects. Echoing Felix Gonzalez-Torres' Untitled (Perfect Lovers), the clocks hang in pairs despite their asynchronous rhythms. Instead of gradually diverging, Fernández unites the two separate chronologies in a side-by-side polyrhythm.
Patricia Fernández (b. 1980, Burgos, Spain; lives and works in Los Angeles) received her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 2010 and BFA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2002. Fernández has had solo exhibitions at Holiday Forever, Jackson Hole, WY (2020); Todd Madigan Gallery, California State University, Bakersfield (2018); Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (2015); Centro de Arte Caja de Burgos, Spain (2015); 18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica (2014); and LA><ART (2014). Selected group exhibitions were held at the Angels Gate Cultural Center, San Pedro, CA (2019); Orange County Museum of Art, Santa Ana (2017); Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles (2017); Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (2017); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2012); and Clifton Benevento, New York (2010). Fernández is a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant for Painters and Sculptors (2019); Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2017-18); Speranza Foundation Lincoln City Fellowship (2015); France-Los Angeles Exchange Grant (2012); and California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists (2011). She has been a resident artist at Récollets, Paris (2016); D-Flat, México, D.F. (2016); Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito (2015); 18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica (2014); and Fondazione Antonio Ratti, Como, Italy (2013). Fernández’s series of frames for Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes’s Los Caprichos is currently part of the exhibition NOT I: Throwing Voices (1500BCE- 2020CE) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, on view until July 2021.