A Banana is Not A Lemon
February 13 – February 16
Curator: Makenzi Fricker
Artists: Sasha Ballard De La Bastida, Ariadne Manuel
Ariadne Manuel and Sasha Ballard De La Bastida confront deeply imbedded myopias in both artistic practice and established systems of privilege and power––taking to task the institutions of canonical art objects and structural hegemonies alike. Ballard and Manuel offer complementary strains of institutional critique which have been informed by the work of seminal figures such as Andrea Fraser, Louise Lawler, and Sherrie Levine. They respond to the socially engaged milieu of their generation by evaluating gender dynamics in the institutions they recognize as flawed, through participatory and interventionist gestures. Through research-based practices, Manuel and Ballard challenge the now-intertwined relationship between the body and capitalism, as well as the consequences of commodity and consumption on the politics of display.
By packaging artworks as though they were perishable goods, Manuel adroitly inspects the connection between capitalist undertakings and art institutions. Her manipulation of a wide range of media including sculptures in ceramics and silicone casts, assemblage, painting, and printmaking, is playful. She explores institutional critique by anointing plastic sculpture with gold leaf, questioning our systems of imbuing worth based upon material value. Manuel reaches back to the traditions of classic Greek and Roman art and manipulates forms of antiquity in her sculptural practice. Her fluid visual language explicates her inquiries into the many varying realms of biology, art history, and theology and communicates her epistemological motivations and fascination with the ephemerality of nature.
Ballard De La Bastida’s interventionist and often politically inspired artwork references the body as a point of departure for social engagement. Strategies include employing casts of the artist’s body to provoke a visceral and empathetic reaction from the viewer. Other elements of the body are woven in their work as well; hair is a discarded bodily product that is at once personal (when still attached) and impersonal (when removed). Much of their work addresses the consequences of migration as a repercussion of US-driven geopolitical schemes. They often utilize found consumer goods, such as fruit or t-shirts, and cut, re-fashion, or print on them to facilitate a self-critical reflection on the part of the viewer. Ballard De La Bastida often meditates on ideas of border and boundaries, and how they are manipulated by systems of power to influence our everyday experiences on a multitude of scales. Interventionist actions that stage and call attention to these borders are simultaneously a form of protest and an attempt to locate a physical relationship with the audience, however remote.
Manuel and Ballard De La Bastida’s sophisticated examinations of structural power hierarchies betray a nuanced and perceptive understanding of the world atypical for artists of their age. Each employs a haptic sensibility and embraces the physicality of the human body in their work to provoke the audience on a visceral level. They ardently believe that art can solidify issues that seem remote––and critique art’s capitalistic interjections into the fabric of modern life while recognizing that there is a foundational, and inherently transactional exchange of emotion that art provokes with the viewer.
Photos by Omkar Dhadge