Commonwealth and Council

East of the River

Guadalupe Rosales


Like a hall of mirrors or a hub of portals, East of the River beckons to us from in front of a series of gateways, the thresholds of Rosales’ nocturnal forays into her native East Los Angeles. Under cover of darkness, the night becomes revelatory as it is obfuscating. Here, freedom, fear, safety, and nostalgia intermingle, overlap, and collapse. Rosales underscores and reclaims the subjectivity of the archive—who determines how the past is presented and preserved. Her projects Veteranas and Rucas ans Map Pointz assert community-sourced and motivated histories via Instagram, sharing and enshrining experiences of Latinx women and youth from the 1980s and ‘90s. East of the River offers landmarks of Rosales’ own experiences, enigmatic, exploring a poetics of denizenship and the ways in which memory, experience, and sentiment occupy and create environment.

The fuzz and noise of a metal screen door veil a neighborhood view like the moirĂ© of a CRT screen, perhaps a metaphor for the action of nostalgia, superimposed on top of some assumed “reality.” If one took a step back, the honeycombed micro-grid would fade back into legibility, but Rosales foregrounds the distortive screen and the way night and light conspire to lend a painterly wash over the scene, like the haze of remembrance. A similar mesh disrupts the slick surface of a vertical mirror upon which Rosales invited family members to etch the names of friends and relatives in a collective memorialization of those deceased or absent. Bringing to mind the trickiness of memory, impossible to wholly grasp or perceive, the hand-etchings fade in and out of view, fugitive responses to light and interference yet indelibly present all the same. Like echoes in the dark, these portals gesture to a missive from the past, guiding us toward the future.

History and memory surround us, house us the way a building provides shelter or constricts and cages. What reminiscences are roused upon re-treading familiar paths? Cities grow, breathe, and change as we do, yet throughout, vast sediments of cultures and residents remain. Rosales’ pictorial excavations point toward these ambient ghosts: a mural of Smurfs, graffitied and painted over, one Smurf’s face inexplicably blued out in a literal defacement (a blotch of paint that recalls violence, disruption); secret codes, tracks of ghosts like the glancing beam of an unseen car’s headlights. While Rosales’ mirrored lightboxes can be seen as time-traveling portals, her photographs posit that portals to the past exist in a theater backdoor, or a strip club, or the undercarriage of a lowrider propped up like a beast at rest—but only if you are in the know. What she presents is a secret passageway, but withholds the password, if one even need exist. 

Special thanks: Hernan Daloia / Engrave It, Inc., Joel Garcia, Joseph Mariscal, Malex Pinstriping, Maria Rosales and Phillip Cervantes, Melissa Govea, Mendel Varela, Michelle Sauer, MPA

Guadalupe Rosales (b.1980, Los Angeles; lives and works in Los Angeles) is a multidisciplinary artist and educator best known for her community generated archival projects, “Veteranas and Rucas” and “Map Pointz,” found on social media. Rosales received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2016. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at Dallas Museum of Art, TX (2021); Los Angeles Nomadic Division, CA (2020); Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City (2020); Gordon Parks Foundation, Pleasantville, NY (2019); Vincent Price Art Museum, Monterey Park, CA (2018); Aperture Foundation, New York (2018); Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles (2018); and Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK (2017). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Whitney Museum of American Art (2022), Oxy Arts, Los Angeles (2020); The Kitchen, New York (2019); Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NE (2017); Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK (2017); Vincent Price Art Museum, Monterey Park, CA (2016); Self Help Graphics, Los Angeles (2016); ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles (2013); Brooklyn Museum, NY (2012); Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2012); The Contemporary, Baltimore, MD (2011); Nicelle Beauchene, NY (2010); and Momenta Art, Brooklyn, NY (2009). Rosales is the recipient of the United States Artists Fellowship (2020); PAOS/Museo Taller Jose Clemente Orozco Residency, Guadalajara, Mexico (2020); Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2019); Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant (2019); Main Museum Artist Residency, Los Angeles (2018); Los Angeles County Museum of Art Instagram Residency (2017); Ox-Bow School of Art Residency, Saugatuck, MI (2015); and Guapamacataro Center for Art and Ecology Residency, Michoacán, Mexico (2012). Rosales’ work is currently on view in Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet As It’s Kept until September 5, 2022.