Jaulas // Cages : Erick Medel
In a show of solidarity for those who are being held captive against their will, oppressed, and colonized by this authoritarian regime “Jaulas // Cages” is a week celebrating emerging Latinx Image-makers who I am interviewing to gain their insight and voice on the current danger it is to be outside the white patriarchal standard the current US government is striving for. This week is dedicated to all immigrants, and to those who do work or are currently in a jaula//cage. A cage being anything from physical, emotional, mental. These “Jaulas” are struggles we ALL have been within at points in our life: An enclosure of gender, a cage of identity, the pens of oppression, a box to be tokenized by.
Erick Medel (Mexico,b.1992) is a Los Angeles based artist. His interdisciplinary practice combines sculpture and textiles with available consumer objects and iconography to highlight the complexities and contradictions associated with definitions of Americanness. He received his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. His experience as a teenage immigrant growing up in the US has influenced his practice and observations regarding what it means to be an American and the complexities surrounding identity and otherness. Medel’s work has been exhibited at Liberal Arts Roxbury, (New York), Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), CAMAYUHS (Atlanta), SPRING/BREAK LA Fair (Los Angeles), and NADA House w/ HOUSING Gallery, (Governors Island, NY), Martha’s Contemporary (Austin) among others. @erick.medel
Can one become a real American simply by wanting the same things the dominant culture desires? Medel explores conflicting ideas of identity and expectations based on race and origin. Born in Mexico, but raised in the USA. Medel learned how to be seen as American by camouflaging who he was.
The viewer is presented with fragments relevant to the artists Mexican-American self and his struggle to claim both as his own. The art making process is intimate, introspective, and laborious, using a sewing machine that belonged to his mother as his primary tool. Reminding the artist of the Latinx immigrant community in the surrounding area near his studio in Los Angeles, This neighborhood is both home and foreign at the same time.
Through transformations in materials and form, Medel opens up a dialogue about the customization of identity and the power of consumer culture, habits, and the symbolism in the promotion of ideologies.
When you hear the word Jaulas//Cages, what are you thinking of?
I think of immigrants currently being held in ICE concentration camps. I also thinking of the historical mistreatment of the Other in the United States.
How would you describe your upbringing and how you came to be an artist?
I grew up in a creative household, my parents don’t consider themselves artists but they have influenced me to become an artist. I began in high school when I started taking art classes.
I’m grateful for my family’s support and encouragement, I’d wouldn’t be who I am without them.
From your upbringing and work, what does Latinidad, mean to you? Does being Latinx inform for work?
My Latinx identity heavily informs my work. I had to leave Los Angeles for a few years in order to appreciate and embrace the beauty of my Mexican heritage.
Who and/or what inspires you?
My Mexican people inspire me a lot. Not just in terms of the imagery I use in my work but also in the strength and resilience. Our communities are often neglected, ignored or forgotten but we overcome and keep fighting just to exist.
What do you feel is your relationship to photography and how has this evolved over time? How is materiality important to your pieces?
Photography was the first medium I felt in love with and I feel like my work still shows photographic qualities. I evolved from making photographs and sculptures into paying more attention to the materiality and the process and its connection to Latinx Immigrant labor.
What do you want to see more of in the art world?
I want to see more Latinx representation in the art world, more artists, curators and gallery owners. Sometimes it feels like the art world is only interested in Latinx art when it can be neatly packaged and sold without being too confrontational or directly calling out white people.
What advice would you have for up and coming latinx artists?
Keep making work, your voice is important especially when democracy seems to be crumbling and white supremacists think we won’t fight back.
What is next for you?
I’m currently in a group show titled “Still Here” at Martha’s Contemporary in Austin, TX. It will be open until November 2nd.
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