Commonwealth and Council presents Glove Hand Dog, an exhibition of recent work by Carmen Argote showing across three spaces: Commonwealth and Council, Clockshop, and Stairwell LA. Conceived during the shelter-in-place order in Los Angeles, Glove Hand Dog continues Argote’s process-based investigations of her surroundings as artist, dweller, and flaneux.
The drawings in Glove Hand Dog, stemming from Argote’s night time walks in East Los Angeles, comprise a synesthesia of embodied looking. Mindful of her safety but compelled to venture out, Argote began wearing gloves on her walks, producing an acute feeling of sensory deprivation and disconnect that came to inflect every stage of her work. The motion of walking transfers to pencil and crayon, one hand’s contact with paper traced by the other—sublimating Argote’s urge to touch objects encountered in passing. Dog Spin recreates the movements of a dog she frequently visited, across a chain-link fence. Frantic smears of graphite silhouette her hand in a whirl of overlapping iterations that somehow conjure the dog, the fence, and above all, Argote’s longing for contact. In these scrawlings, which take after the childhood compulsion to put crayon to paper, Argote imagines herself as the dog, out from behind the fence and roaming the streets, a dream of lately-frustrated public intimacy. Like common shadowplay or the handprints cast on ancient cave walls, Argote invokes a fundamental animism—bringing distant beings within reach, transposed quasi-pictographically into a heightened realm of aesthetic encounter.
This desire to reanimate through depiction coincides with a deep need to find the appropriate language, the measure and the time, to recall the spirit—of other beings, as one’s own. Embarking on a series of transfer prints, Argote pressed RXbars (popular for their simple ingredients: egg whites, cashews, almonds, dates) onto paper in an almost linguistic syntax and spacing, marking time spent indoors. The nut oils seeped into the paper, creating abstract blooms which she then traced in crayon. The oil blots continue to spread beyond the traces, indexing the passage of time. Argote likens this seepage to digestion: as the oil absorbs, it gradually weakens the fiber, turning the paper transparent. Autonomic and independent of the artist, the work changes and lives. Oil blots imprinted at different time intervals grow at different rates, creating a polyrhythmic buildup of layers—days, weeks, and months all recorded on a single sheet. Once again, animals appear, no longer drawn from memory but hallucinated in the free-association of glyphs and forms now standing in for the outside world.
Argote contrasts the RXbar prints with two larger oil blot works—6 Large Pepperoni Extra Cheese and Large Pepperoni Extra Cheese—imprinted with pizza slices. On her walks, Argote came across many discarded pizza boxes, kicking them open with her shoe to inspect the oil residues left behind, noticing in particular the different patterns and density of transfers created by animal fats. With the abstracted oleaginous marks, Argote metabolizes foods into their constituent elements like calories, macronutrients, and sodium. More broadly, the differences between the protein bar and pizza prints intimate a variety of social dichotomies that undergird the life of the city: individual vs. shared consumption, “smart” snacking vs. junk food, upscale vs. proletarian lifestyle eating. Even sequestered from public view, our lives continue leaving their mark in the street.
Hand Dog Glove at Clockshop
Dog Glove Hand at Stairwell LA
Film screening and Q&A with Erin Christovale, co-presented by Clockshop and the Hammer Museum
Conversation with Andrea Gyorody, presented by Active Cultures
Carmen Argote (b. 1981, Guadalajara, Mexico; lives and works in Los Angeles) received an MFA in 2007 from University of California, Los Angeles, where she also received her BFA in 2004. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at Visual Arts Center, University of Texas, Austin (2020); New Museum, New York (2019); PAOS, Guadalajara, Mexico (2019); Ballon Rouge Collective, Istanbul, Turkey (2019) and New York (2018); Instituto de Vision, Bogota, Colombia (2018); Panel LA, Los Angeles (2017); and MAK Center for Art and Architecture (2015). Argote has been featured in group exhibitions at SculptureCenter, New York (2019); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018); Orange County Museum of Art, Santa Ana (2017); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2017); Ballroom Marfa, TX (2017); and Denver Art Museum, CO (2017). She is the recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2019); Artadia Los Angeles Award (2019); Rema Hort Mann Foundation Artist Community Engagement Grant (2015); and the California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists (2013).