“The space of a (social) order is hidden in the order of space…” – Henri Lefebvre
Tony de los Reyes’ seductive new works treat the US/Mexico border as a zone of visual disturbance and perceptual instability. Cherry and Martin is proud to present this timely exhibition that captures the strange pathologies that haunt the border regions.
The US/Mexico border is a hyperactive space that bears the weight of multiple contrasts: contested ideologies, market economies, humanitarian crises, cultural transmissions, ecstatic landscapes and brute force. De los Reyes’ ongoing Border Theory series renders these sites as visually discordant and enigmatic hybrids of minimalist abstraction, radical color and photographic documentation. The result is a psychic panorama of the border that pulls the viewer into states of optical dislocation and blurred resolution. Rather than demanding his audience to listen to static political arguments, de los Reyes chooses to emphasize the incongruity of the border itself, a collaboration of political will, tragic architecture, and unresolved histories.
Images for the calexico supermoon paintings arose from the artist’s photographs taken at midnight along a desolate stretch of desert twenty miles east of the Calexico/Mexicali crossing. The paintings disregard specific details, allowing instead the artist’s perception of the night as paired blasts of lunar light pushing through or hovering above the border wall. Borrowing from such diverse sources as Josef Alber’s Interaction of Color and Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space, de los Reyes allows binary oppositions of color and form to stand as substantial allegories of the tension inherent in the site: one of simultaneous attraction and repulsion, and human and geographic antagonism.
This oscillation between unfixed identification and meaning is fused in de los Reyes’ los dos paintings (2016), where a close-up of a single, stenciled numeral at the Tecate border defies visual clarity, as its close tonalities and hues vibrate in uneasy harmonies. A more optically clear yet equally puzzling set of images are found in the artist’s aberturas (2016), a suite of photographs taken through irregularly-shaped gaps in the Tijuana border wall. Here the wall itself is stripped away, allowing banal stretches of el norte to appear as idiosyncratic mirages. Printed in gold ink and centrally placed on the paper, these glyphic forms convert barren desert landscapes into possible/impossible utopias. Such works, along with the entire Border Theory series, continue an undervalued discussion regarding the role of perception in the apprehension of space.
Tony de los Reyes received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. His work has been reviewed in Art in America, The Los Angeles Times, Modern Painters and Artforum. He is a recipient of the California Community Foundation grant and City of Los Angeles (COLA) grant, and his work is included in the collections of LACMA, Orange County Museum of Art, Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the New Britain Museum of American Art. He lives and works in Los Angeles.