While the photographs at the front of the gallery successfully establish a mood of dislocation, the exhibition’s most affecting piece is Maria TV (2014), a short video that anchors the themes of Valenzuela’s work in a tangible pseudo-reality. Matching real-life female immigrants with an acting coach, Valenzuela has the women play the roles of nannies and maids, reenacting lines from soap operas interspersed with revelations from their own personal experiences.
Here, as in many of his films, Valenzuela’s rearranging of fantasy and fact sheds light on the difficulties that he has experienced as a working-class immigrant—and one that thousands of others experience on a daily basis. As the artist explains, “The films are one way of looking at yourself, finding a way to aestheticize that story. Ultimately, it’s about engaging with other people, realizing that your story isn’t so unique as to have a connection with someone else.”
“Hedonic Reversals” is on view at envoy enterprises, New York, Dec. 10, 2015–Jan. 17, 2016.