In January 2016, the New Museum hosts the first solo museum presentation in New York of the work of artist Pia Camil.
“Pia Camil: A Pot for a Latch,” 2016. Exhibition view: New Museum. Photo: Maris Hutchinson / EPW Studio
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In her paintings, sculptures, performances, and installations, Camil draws inspiration from the urban landscape of her native Mexico City and engages with the history of modernism. Her projects transform the remnants of dysfunctional commercial culture, revealing the inherent problems as well as the latent aesthetic potential within inner-city ruin. Often using laborious fabrication processes in collaboration with local artisans, Camil deaccelerates the frenetic pace of mass commodification through the handcrafted production and intimate quality of her works. In recent projects, she has expanded the scope of her practice to create theatrical environments that invite the viewer to navigate the exhibition space and experience shifting viewpoints and juxtapositions.
For “A Pot for a Latch,” Camil presents a participatory sculptural installation produced specifically for the Lobby Gallery. Inspired by the modular display systems typically used by vendors, Camil has constructed a succession of gridwall panels of her own design, complete with built-in hooks, shelves, and other fixtures for displaying items. Composed of grids, lines, and geometric shapes, the structures form a volumetric drawing within the space of the gallery, referencing cheap commercial constructions as well as the serial patterning of paintings and sculptures made by Minimalist artists such as Sol LeWitt and Agnes Martin.
The title of the exhibition refers to the potlatch, a ceremonial gift-giving festival practiced by the Native-American peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast, for whom it continues to be a system of wealth redistribution. Camil invites the public to participate in the ongoing creation of her piece on designated days, during which visitors are encouraged to exchange their own unique items for others in the installation. The composition on the gridwall panels is thereby in flux and is repeatedly altered throughout the course of the exhibition. With “A Pot for a Latch,” Camil transforms the Lobby Gallery into a shop of sorts, in which the monetary value of an object is supplanted by its personal history and significance.
New Museum visitors are invited to exchange items for those in the installation during a series of six public events.
Thursday December 17, 5–9 PM
During the first event, visitors were able to swap their items for a limited-edition sweatshirt designed by Pia Camil in collaboration with Lorena Vega.
On subsequent days, participants’ items will be exchanged for those items that are installed in the Lobby Gallery on that particular day.
Sunday February 7, 2–4 PM
Sunday February 21, 2–4 PM
Sunday March 6, 2–4 PM
Sunday March 20, 2–4 PM
Sunday April 3, 2–4 PM
Artist’s invitation: “A Pot for a Latch” is an invitation to exchange.
The object you bring is a talisman of sorts, and it should be thought of in the same way that the ancient Romans conceived of in their term “res,” which denotes a gift that has both a personal value and a history. Bring objects of power, of aesthetic interest, and of poignancy. The monetary value of these items is insignificant; their value lies instead in their richness of meaning and in the new life that they acquire on the grid within the Lobby Gallery.
Potential exchange items may include: clothes, curtains, blankets, artworks, photographs, paintings, frames, nondescript items of undetermined function, objects that resemble parts of the human body such as wigs or mannequins, costume jewelry and accessories, mirrors and reflective items, potted plants, colorful items and/or those with interesting shapes and forms, transparent materials such as shower curtains, lingerie, or X-rays, books, and trinkets.
Prohibited exchange items include but are not limited to: electronics, heavy items (over twenty pounds), small-scale objects (less than six inches in diameter), loose-leaf paper, tote bags, mass-produced garments, food or other perishables, weapons, and chemicals or other hazardous materials.
Objects accepted for exchange will not be returned to the submitting party.
Pia Camil was born in 1980 in Mexico City, where she continues to live and work. She has exhibited internationally at venues including Frieze Projects, New York (2015); Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Middlesbrough, England (2015); Saatchi Gallery, London (2015); Biennial of the Americas, Denver Colorado (2013); and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Spain (2011). Her recent solo presentations include “The Little Dog Laughed,” Blum & Poe, Los Angeles (2014); “Entrecortinas: Abre, Jala, Corre,” Galería OMR, Mexico City (2014); “Espectacular Telón,” Galerie Sultana, Paris (2013); and “Cuadrado Negro,” Artium Basque Centre-Museum of Contemporary Art, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain (2013). Camil’s exhibition “Skins” is currently on view at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, through March 13, 2016.
The exhibition is curated by Margot Norton, Associate Curator.