The 'Dominican New Yorker' tackles ideas related to minimalism, pop art, identity politics and consumer culture at Sean Horton (presents) in Oak Cliff.
How can ideas related to minimalism, pop art, identity politics and a critique of consumer culture find themselves at play in a single body of work?
Such ambition drives the conceptual art of Lucia Hierro, who has opened her first solo show in Texas titled “Objetos Específicos” at Sean Horton (presents) in Oak Cliff.
A relative newcomer, the artist has slowly made a name for herself in the New York art world and has now set her eyes on Dallas as well. Hierro, who calls herself a “Dominican New Yorker,” studied art at Yale, completing a master of fine arts degree in 2013.
The exhibition includes several brand-new sculptures and a site-specific mural titled Anchoring, which is composed of collaged imagery on vinyl decals, adhered to a painted wall. Born into a family of Dominican immigrants, Hierro grew up in the Manhattan neighborhoods of Washington Heights and Inwood, places suffused with Latin Caribbean culture, from which she draws extensively for subject matter and perspective as an artist. Hierro arrived in Dallas almost a week before the opening to install the show.
The title of her exhibition is a translation into Spanish of an influential essay on minimalism, “Specific Objects,” written by Donald Judd and originally published in 1965. His contempt for art riddled with illusionism and narrative content paved the way for an exploration of spare, repetitive forms.
Hierro appropriates this aesthetic in her Rack series by retaining minimalism's metallic structures, but she subverts the format by adding fabricated bags depicting chicharrones, corn chips and platanitos: everyday comfort food items found in Latin bodegas.
The bags are larger than life-size, made of nylon and foam, each overlaid with a digital print. The work is serious but not without a sense of humor. She turns Judd’s theory on its head by way of the culinary.
Her choice of mass-market products, also present in the mural, undermines Judd’s disdain for recognizable images, while suggesting a critique of consumer culture akin to the purview of pop art. This also raises a question about how the products might depict a sense of identity or, perhaps conversely, have a hand in constructing this very identity via the consumable items themselves.
These questions and ideas are further played out in Mandao: Para Baby Chower (Hung Open) #1, her oversized plastic shopping tote filled with soft sculptures that represent various sundries and packaged items. The contents are clearly visible through the clear plastic. They suggest what the owner's choices reveal: personality, race, taste and even education level.
The soft sculptures are a direct reference to the pop artist Claes Oldenburg, whose work is a constant inspiration to the artist. For Hierro, it’s not merely a question about her particular situation and worldview.
Certainly, Latin American viewers would readily identify with the products and the “Spanglish” titles, but the ideas are large enough to interest people from various backgrounds, enriching the artistic dialogue.
Additionally, seeing the images brought together, enhanced in scale with their bold colors and strong outlines, underscores their seductive beauty. In our current era of late capitalism, these are all poignant and appropriate issues for advanced art to tackle in reference to aesthetics, commodity saturation and multiculturalism.
Exhibitions with art of such depth are few and far between, and therefore all the more important to see for yourself.
John Zotos is a Dallas-based art critic and essayist.