Exhibition Visit, November 2021
In late October I went to New York for the second time since the pandemic started, as someone who regularly visits it was an invigorating trip of mostly art viewing at all of my regular stops. Hyacinth is a new gallery, located in Chinatown where I was able to see Chloe Luisa Piñero’s exhibition Fever Dreams. It was the second time I had seen her work in person, the first being when I interviewed Lucia Garzón, her studio mate, in Philadelphia this past summer. Piñero has an affinity for cheap materials, mashed up visuals, and a collage sensibility. Her work and the gallery were a jolt of energy after the loop of white cube galleries and I left wanting to hear more about her process. Piñero lives and works in Philadelphia and upon my return to Baltimore we had a chat over zoom.
Interview between Amy Boone-McCreesh and Chloe Luisa Piñero.
Amy: You are about to close the exhibition Fever Dreams at Hyacinth Gallery in New York. Now that you have a little space to reflect and the show has been up for a few weeks, how do you feel about that work and your experience putting together your first solo show in NY?
Chloe: The manager at Petzel gallery just opened the space and I’m the second artist to show there, so it’s been really new and exciting for us both to be working together. I was asked less than two months prior to the show. In a way I wish I had more time to create new work, but luckily I had a big body of recent work to choose from. All of the work in the show was made during the pandemic. Most of the paintings were made earlier in 2020 and a lot of the mixed media and sculptural work was made more recently.
Seeing all of the work in a space that was not my studio was really important and refreshing for me. I have a lot of work everywhere in my studio and it doesn’t usually have a lot of room to breathe. Putting the show together was super exciting, but also nerve-wracking because I felt the pressure of this being my first solo show out of school and in New York. After taking some space and time from installing and having the work up, I’ve been able to kind of reflect and see connections of what I want to further explore.
There are parts of the show where I pushed work to be more sculptural. Like with using the milk crate as a structure to display the book of printed digital collages. I’m specifically interested in how the crate comes off of the wall and how it becomes this bridge from pictorial space to being in the viewer’s space. The sculptural pieces in the windows do something similar in connecting the printed image to physical space. After this show I’ve been feeling really excited to be exploring more immersive and installation-based work in my practice.
A: Your material choices and ways you integrate them are so striking, can you talk about your relationship to material and surface?
C: I went to school for painting and drawing, and while I was in school I mostly did oil painting. In my last year I started to branch out into using found materials and unconventional materials in my paintings and exploring sculpture a little bit. Since then, I haven’t really gone back to traditional or flat surface painting.
I’ve alway wanted to reflect my own experiences and stories in my work, which for me has always been so deeply connected to place and environment. I’ll get a lot of materials from dollar or thrift stores- places I went to growing up. I also pull a lot of imagery from social media and digital spaces, which I think really came out of Covid and spending more time online than out in the world. I’m drawn to imagery and objects that hold personal significance but that also carry collective meaning and associations. I’m interested in how the ideas or experiences people attach to image and material can become an entry point into the work. I also pull a lot of imagery from adult magazines and influencer posts on social media. I guess I just work with images I’m attracted to, which sounds very basic, but it’s just genuine attraction to materials. I let this lead me and then I examine my connection to the materials and objects and how it all relates and what I want to explore with a piece.
A: I love the sense of High and Low in your work, do you actively think about that representation or is it an innate part of your aesthetic?
C: I’m interested in what we find attractive and valuable in tacky or cheap objects. And more so how discount stores create an illusion around household items being fancy or elevated, when in reality they are still just made of plastic or another low cost material. For me there is a lot of nostalgia in these objects and stores.
I also reference the femme body a lot in my work and I’m interested in how we can use cheap materials or discount beauty products to feminize the body and replicate a specific look or standard. And how this becomes its own niche or sub-standard of attraction. I think it comes down to being interested in ideas of illusion and artifice.
A: The female body appears in many different ways in your work; I especially enjoy the images in the book you’ve made. How do gender and identity operate in your visual vocabulary?
C: I think about my work and the process of collage as a reflection of my own identity and a space where all parts of myself can exist–even the parts I don’t show or present in my day to day. Sometimes I feel like it’s impossible to show certain sides, or all sides of myself at the same time in real life, so I do that in my work. I reflect a lot on how I have been taught to present my gender and sexuality and think about this in connection to queerness and denying or embracing the more feminine parts of myself. The imagery I use, and where I pull it from becomes a kind of reference point for popular standards around femme presentation. With social media, we’re fed these images of unreal body standards. But even knowing this, I’m still attracted to these images, so I use them in my work to explore what that attraction is.
Usually when making work I deconstruct the body and landscape to pick out parts that hit on something nostalgic or parts that are most alluring to me. I’ll reconstruct the pieces in ways that become unconventional or nonfunctional. I sometimes like to think of these figures as monstrous or fantastical characters that exist in an alternate universe that I create.
Looking for Four Leaf Clover, is one of my most recent projects where I explore digital collage in print and in the format of a book. When making the book I was thinking about standards around femme bodies and included a lot of hyper sexualized imagry from adult magazines and instagram. I juxtapose this imagery with that of nostalgic objects from my childhood and fragments of Philadelphia’s landscape – places from my upbringing. For me this book references the age in my adolescence where I began to think about and form identity- which was really informed by my encounters both in the real world and early internet days.
A: I bet you have a great collection of images in your studio! How do you source and gather the found images?
C: In my studio I have bins of fabric and random materials that I’ll use in my work. I also have an external hard drive with a massive folder of images. The folders range from personal photos, screenshots from social media, and digital archives and google search images – a lot of random stuff. Not everything I’ve used, but that’s as much a part of my process as the work itself–is looking for images and archiving them.
A: Anything else to you would like to promote?
I’ll also be part of a group show coming up in January at the Cambridge Art Association in Cambridge, MA. The show is called Vernacular Glamour and it’s curated by Juan Omar Rodriguez. The show features a group of contemporary Latinx artists who are making work around ideas around femininity, glamour and everyday life. Here’s a link to the show description on the CAA’s website: https://www.cambridgeart.org/vernacular-glamour/
A: Any pandemic picks or recommendations getting you through life right now?
C: I’ve been watching We’re Here on HBO. It’s a show about three drag queens who go into small towns and meet queer people who are either important advocates in the community or are who are struggling with their identity. The queens host this big drag event and kind of bridge connections for queer people in these conservative places. It’s really a great show.