Commonwealth and Council

watermelons, no catchies or bouncies

Carmen Argote


Carmen Argote’s work and process reveal a duality at play between sites, or between histories, often having to do with movement between places, transplantation, and adaptation. Painting for an exterior wall (2014) is a 6 by 7 feet of stretched canvas that mirrors the same color and painted lines of the handball courts in LAUSD elementary schools. Made mobile, this court can freely move between districts and neighborhoods, becoming a site of transference and muscle memory. Repeat actions mark the surface of the painting like bruises from dirt on a rosy pink handball that resembles an old eraser.

Carmen Argote (b. 1981 in Guadalajara, Mexico) is a Los Angeles-based artist who has lived in and around the downtown area most of her life. She received her MFA from University of California, Los Angeles in 2007 and was an artist-in-residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2009. In 2010, she created a dual-site-specific exhibition that took place at her childhood home in Pico Union and Gallery G727. Upcoming exhibitions include: a solo exhibition at Human Resources, Los Angeles in November 2014; a dual-site-project at MAK Center for Art and Architecture and High Desert Test Sites in April 2015; and an MTA commission for the future Metro Expo Line station at 17th and Colorado in Santa Monica in early 2016. 


The playground lacks hiding places; we are dropped off and expected to figure it out. For many of us, it is the place where we first realize we are completely on our own; both predator (bullies) and prey (anyone showing any fear) must occupy and identify this space together, forming both physical and psychological relationships amongst each other and with the grounds itself. Some will feel comfort in this environment and thrive; others will suffer and find contemplative spaces to go, or inanimate friends—a ball, a rope, a wall—a simple motion that can be repeated for the duration of the stay.

You’ll learn the way your body moves. You’ll learn people are faster than you, whether you can throw or not; you may never want to throw anything ever again. You’ll learn that people are terrible to one another, and some may want to fight you for reasons you won’t understand. We all walk off with different ideas of what it means to play.

We return to the playground as adults and see the hiding spaces that were not supposed to exist and have since lost access to. We return to the place that left us in an endless pursuit of places to hide.

—David Bell, 2014