Its all about things.
Three Walls Gallery
February 5, 2007 - March 31, 2007
Maldonado has transformed ThreeWalls residency/gallery into a flea market shanty auction house. I was informed upon entry that the show wasn’t complete without the artist being present, who was attending to an emergency. When the artist is present, the audience is invited to barter for Maldonado’s artworks, which are mostly small paintings that range from landscape to pop abstractions. The quality of the paintings mirror the eccentric aesthetic of his gypsy auction house, where they are displayed. Even without witnessing the performance, it was obvious to me that the artist was interested in human behavior in relation to material stuff, so I wondered why it was necessary for the artist to be present. Raw materials and messy murals constructed the environment, which was compartmentalized into a lounge, a private viewing room, a permanent collection room, and an exhibition space. The installation of IAAT is a Thomas Hirshorn version of a blue chip auction house. I hear that Maldonado will barter intensely for up to 30 minutes with a customer, yet I’m already hyper aware of the importance of materiality in the gallery space. Along with the bartering and trading, Maldonado documents the procedure with paperwork that feeds into his overarching practice, which is a study of the relationship between humans and things.
So there is the description.
Now here are some questions.
1. Is it really all about things?
2. Why is an impoverished flea market the setting?
3. Why is the aesthetic a manicured mess?
1. It’s not all about things. It is a performance, an event that forces a relationship on the things. It may be participatory, and the artist might be engaging the audience, but the event is still a mediated experience, a reproduced performance. Maldonado states that this project is a way to study a person’s relationship to things. If this is the objective study that Maldonado claims, the theatrical scene and performance is going to skew the results. Maybe the statement should be reconsidered, because the real content of IAAT lies in Maldonado’s relationship to things, or more specifically his relationship to aesthetics. This scenario at Three Walls is a pronounced version of context determining value. So it’s not all about things, it’s all about a contrived context. Maybe it’s all about context. There is a stage, props, and performers of this play. Even though he solicits audience members to speak about their emotional attachment to knick-knacks, it is still Maldonado’s stage.
2. Bartering is the tool that Luis Maldonado uses to engage his audience. Face to face communication. Maybe I am still answering question number one, because this direct engagement of talking trumps all other aspects of the project. This also makes me question why the gallery is outfitted in murals on cardboard walls, exposed 2x4’s and tarp. A few years ago I visited my friend Michael, and he had turned his apartment into one expansive sheet tent. Every ceiling and every wall had sheets tacked onto them. He told me that his apartment had undergone a Halloween transformation. This makes sense. It was Halloween. I don’t think it makes sense for Luis Maldonado to transform a gallery into a shanty auction house. Does he need an immersive environment in order to talk one on one to audience members? And why an environment that is a sign of poverty? It seems that Maldonado does want to address class issues and systems of value, but why does he model his project after a third-world bazaar? This seems inconsiderate to say the least. I don’t understand why bartering is better than a monetary system. Is it because he wants a stronger connection to his audience? My confusion that you, yeah you the reader are sensing is because the IAAT project is inconsistent. If Maldonado thinks that one system of exchange is better than another system of exchange, don’t mix them together. IAAT is sectioned off into paintings worth money, and paintings worth bartering.
3. For Maldonado, aesthetics are used to devalue the discreet art object that he calls a “thing”. Aesthetics are props and stage settings for an event to take place. Maldonado needs a site that can be used to barter and talk to people. Why does he need a gallery? David Hammons sold snowballs on the street. I wonder if a public intervention might be better suited for IAAT. But then Maldonado would have less control over the Brechtian in your face performance that is the core of the project. Since the performance is the forefront of Maldonado’s project, I don’t understand why he creates an immersive environment. The cardboard and tarp functions as a sign for poverty. This sign is distracting and unnecessary for a performance of Maldonado haggling with an audience.