Cob Gallery is proud to present a new solo exhibition by Alida Cervantes, a Mexican artist whose work combines painterly exuberance with a perceptive critique of the structures of power and domination.
Raised between Tijuana and San Diego, Cervantes emerged into consciousness in a space fraught by in-betweenness. The sense of being on the fringes of two cultures, and having a problematic relationship with both, prompted her interest in the ways that power is distributed through complex hierarchies of gender, race, nationality, class, even species: hierarchies that constantly intersect, overlap and entangle with one another. Subjugation and control— as abstract concepts as well as the realities of a deeply socially stratified Mexican society— are the logics that her painting disrupts.
The paintings on display as part of Historia de una relacion amorosa align thematically with her broader studio practice—depicting the intimacy of interpersonal desire and conflict as a way to reflect on the structures that condition relations to self and other. The work encompasses key examples of one of Cervantes’ trademark techniques – oil paint applied generously to untreated aluminium sheets. They include some of her subversive paintings of Spanish imperial viceroys: images which turn the formalised, ritualistic displays of staid authority embodied by these colonial administrators’ original portraits into something new and oppositional. Shattering rational perspective and putting polite posture out of joint, Cervantes boisterously inverts the majestic pretense of order and reason represented by the originals, the disorderly energy of her depictions pointing to the complex relationships between colonial violence and visual representation.
Elsewhere, in her ‘couch’ paintings, Cervantes presents domestic furniture as a stage upon which societal power relationships are played out. Distilling wider social relations down to pairs of emblematic figures and their intimate interactions, Cervantes asks provocative questions about the power imbalances undergirding passionate exchanges. These images illuminate the suspicious interactions of desire and tyranny, eroticism and oppression, lust and domination. At the same time, like all of Cervantes’ work, they richly convey the pleasure of their own making. Their sheer energy asserts the artist’s ability to give and withhold as she herself sees fit, seizing control over the conventions of her medium and channeling a shrewd politics through an irrepressible spirit.