Laura Ortiz Vega – No USA Return

November 2-January 19, 2018

For her debut solo exhibition, Laura Ortiz Vega presents a new series of thread paintings inspired by the rhetoric surrounding President Trump’s proposed US-Mexico border wall and by her documentation of graffiti in Mexico City, Canada and other cities she had travelled. The exhibit also includes an altar connected to immigrants crossing the desert to America.  

For her thread paintings, The Great Eight, on the west wall of the gallery, Vega started with the now famous images of the eight border wall samples President Trump visited in 2017 while they were being tested along the actual border between San Diego and Tijuana.

After listening to the speeches Trump has given about the wall and reading his tweets on the subject, Vega extracted the eight adjectives Trump used most to describe the border wall project. These are: great, biggest, impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, and incredible. Each word is an imposing declaration. Each wall sample is an impenetrable facade.

Seizing the chance to subvert public perception of these messages, Vega presents the adjectives like graffiti on the border wall samples, turning each section of wall into a billboard that advertises its own alleged attributes in hyperbolic fashion.

Says Vega: “I saw the opportunity to present this matter in a positive note. I envisioned the wall as a blank canvas for expression, a chance to reject the negativity and turn this around.”

Vega models her distinctive thread painting method after the traditional craft techniques of the indigenous Huichol people of western Mexico. She first covers a surface with cera de Campeche, a natural beeswax from the Mexican state of Campeche. She then draws on that surface with cotton Perlé embroidery thread, using a palette knife to embed the thread into the wax. A long delicate process, it takes weeks to finish a single piece. The resulting image-object has a texture reminiscent of an embroidery work, yet it is not textile.

The east wall of the main gallery contains, The Offering/La Ofrenda, an altar made of plastic water jugs inscribed with encouraging messages. The piece references volunteers who leave similar jugs filled with water in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona to help prevent illegal immigrants from dying of dehydration during the desert trek to the United States. Vega’s intention is for The Offering/La Ofrenda to honor those that died attempting the crossing and those that made it but will potentially face life long separation from their relatives due to immigration policies.  

The south wall of the gallery features works that resulted from Vega’s documentation of graffiti in Mexico, Paris and Canada. She first takes photos then recreates them as thread paintings. Most graffiti in Mexico is quickly covered with paint. So Vega gives them a more permanent place in culture by then preserving them in the thread paintings.

The north wall of the gallery includes several sketches providing insight into Vega’s process.

About Laura Ortiz Vega:

Vega was born in Mexico City in 1975. She studied Industrial Design at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, earning her BFA in 2000. Her work has been exhibited extensively, including at the Museo de Arte Popular de la Ciudad de Mexico, Lyons Weir Gallery in New York, The Shooting Gallery in San Francisco, Breeze Block Gallery in Portland, OR, and Galerie Ernst Hilger in Vienna, Austria. It has been featured at Zona MACO, Pulse LA and MIAMI, Houston Fine Art Fair, Art Chicago NEXT, Art Market San Francisco, Art Toronto, London Art Fair, PINTA Art Fair, and Supermarket Art Fair, Sweden. It was selected for the Tequila CENTENARIO Award at Zona MACO and was awarded with an Honorific Mention at the Bienal de Artes Visuales de Yucatán in 2009.

Made possible by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The International Center and Sun King Brewery