Commonwealth and Council

Frieze New York 2019

Gala Porras-Kim


For Frieze New York 2019, Gala Porras-Kim continues her inquiry of museological practices, in particular the interpretation and taxonomization of historical artifacts. Porras-Kim’s Index series group together historical objects based on their formal qualities. The artifacts, of diverse histories and provenance, share common themes such as dogs, acrobats, and magical instruments. Porras-Kim’s subjective groupings underscore the arbitrariness inherent in collating and displaying these works in museum collections, divorced from their original temporal, geographic, and semiotic contexts, which often remain unknown to the present-day viewer.

Further interrogating the (re)contextualization of objects from their places of origin, a large-scale graphite drawing nods to the “graves” from which many relics were excavated and often looted. This quasi-repatriation gestures towards the private or ritual environment of these artifacts yet simultaneously allows them to be seen as they were intended and once existed: in darkness.

Three vitrines containing the memory of artifacts submerged in dirt examine the life cycle of objects. Upon excavation and subsequent preservation, artifacts enter a sort of stasis. Signs of aging such as stains or patina accrue from reactions over time with minerals, specifically manganese, in dirt; however, their surfaces cease to age when removed from the ground. The boxes—filled with dirt and manganese—constitute an instrument to resume the natural aging process. Representing a human intervention upon the action of nature, the sculptures meditate upon the temporal qualities of seemingly fixed objects.

Gala Porras-Kim (b. 1984, Bogotá, Colombia; lives and works in Los Angeles) makes work through the process of learning about the social and political contexts that influence how intangible things, such as sounds, language and history, have been represented through different methodologies in the fields of linguistics, history and conservation. The work comes from a research-based practice that considers the way people represent forms of communication with objects, codes or a written form, and conversely, how objects can be used to make an official narrative through artifacts.

Porras-Kim received an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts and an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has had recent solo exhibitions at Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, LABOR, Mexico City, and Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Para Site, Hong Kong (2019); Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore (2019); Seoul Museum of Art, South Korea (2017); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2017); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); the Los Angeles Public Art Biennial (2016); 44th National Salon of Artists, Bogotá, Colombia (2016); and FRAC Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France (2016). This year, Porras-Kim was shortlisted for PinchukArtCentre’s Future Generation Art Prize and received the Thomas Sillman Vanguard Award. She received the Artadia Award and Rema Hort Mann Foundation grant in 2017, Joan Mitchell Foundation Award in 2016, Creative Capital grant and Tiffany Foundation Award in 2015, and the California Community Foundation Fellowship in 2013. Her work will be shown in the 2019 Whitney and Ural Biennials.