The show features previously unseen works from the series The Mayan and Meeting of Waters; as well the video Ch’u Mayaa [Maya Blue]. The Mayan explores (re)appropriation, (mis)representation, and (mis)translation in a series of sculptures based on The Mayan theater in Los Angeles – a prototypical example of the late 1920s Mayan Revival style, designed by Francisco Cornejo, that co-opted the architecture and iconography of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures. Silicone imprints of the walls and doors are combined with cast figurative gestures borrowed from other Mayan imagery, particularly that of dancers that adorn ceramic vessels.
The works from the series Meeting of Waters take their names from the confluence of the rivers Negro and Solimões at the port of the Brazilian city of Manaus. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, Manaus became the center of the rubber boom and the most industrialized city in Brazil; until approximately 1912, when the British turned to alternative rubber sources and Manaus became impoverished. Following a decade of deregulation that began in 1957, the city became a Free Trade Zone and now hosts the manufacturing plants of such companies as Apple, Coca-Cola and Honda Motorcycles. Tossin explores this complicated history through a range of objects that speak to the impact of industrialization and the material culture of the indigenous groups in the area, crafting replicas of iPhones and Coca-Cola bottles out of terra cotta, a material used to create utilitarian objects such as pots and food storage containers by a variety of indigenous communities. By conflating the materials and uses of traditional and modern objects, Tossin asks us to consider the impact of globalization. The artist uses the refuse of commodity culture, strips of Amazon.com boxes, to make baskets that refer to the Baniwa weaving heritage.
The exhibition concludes with Ch’u Mayaa, a video that responds to the overlooked influence of Mayan architecture on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House by re-appropriating the building as a temple, and imbuing it with a dance performance based on gestures and postures found in ancient Mayan pottery and murals. Through the movement of a female dancer the house is re-signified as belonging to Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican architecture lineage.