Honor Fraser is pleased to present Double Feature, a solo exhibition by Wilmington, CA-based artist Mario Ybarra Jr. The exhibition, his first with the gallery, opens Saturday, January 12th and runs through February 16th – an opening reception will take place from 6PM to 8PM on the 12th.
Over the past decade, Ybarra has developed a practice centered around storytelling. With an eye and ear for the elements of an engaging narrative, accompanied by healthy doses of wit, Ybarra crafts portraits of people, places and communities that are resonant and universal while rooted in the specific. Using the objects and materials that he finds around him and his subjects, he translates personal stories into resonant and multilayered installations that seamlessly blend the languages of art and life. Often, the installations relate the overlooked or unacknowledged; particularly, the lives and dreams of his family, childhood friends, and colorful personalities that make up his community. He makes connections to these local tales for global audiences far from Wilmington, often by relating these individual stories refracted through lenses such as mass media and popular culture.
Double Feature consists of two projects that cull portraits from iconic Hollywood films, mining this deep repository for our collective fantasies. In Universal Monsters, Ybarra finds inspiration in a series of classic horror/sci-fi films produced by Universal Studios in the 1920s-1960s for a series of self-portraits. Simultaneously playful and disarmingly revealing, these works are a psychologically rich exploration of the persona of the artist. Imagining versions of himself filtered through the lens of the creatures of the Universal stable, Ybarra’s multimedia renderings of id build upon our own relationships with these celluloid nightmares.
In the north gallery, Ybarra screens a video inspired by two of his favorite childhood media moments: Michael Jackson’s Thriller and An American Werewolf in London. Creating a quintessential monster video, the artist quite literally explores the process of transformation while exploring the cinematic possibilities of the peculiar architecture of Los Angeles. The video, shot on a pedestrian bridge above the Harbor Freeway near Wilmington, casts the stream of cars as a torrential river, creating an urban wilderness.
In the south gallery, Ybarra reprises the Scarface Museum. This project began in 2005 with a series of performances at Art Basel Miami in which Ybarra staged reenactments and readings from Brian De Palma’s 1983 film Scarface in the neighborhood where the movie took place. Some of the tour attendees referred to the Tony Montana character as “Santo Scarface.” This inspired the Museum, shown as a fully realized installation in 2008 at the Whitney Biennial, which can be seen as a series of Scarface relics and reliquaries playing upon the conventions of collecting, archiving and curating. Cases filled with jackets, lamps, sneakers, videos, statues and countless other objects are carefully displayed according to museological methodology. These projects originally were inspired by Ybarra’s childhood friend, Angel Montes Jr., who was imprisoned for dealing drugs and looked to the Tony Montana character as a hero. He is a devoted collector of the movie’s memorabilia, from which all the Museum’s material is drawn. Here, as in Universal Monsters, cinematic icons and popular culture become a vehicle for personal storytelling that produces unexpected, intimate inroads and relationships between viewers and subjects. One can look at the Monsters and the Museum as wry, engaging, and ultimately politicized lenses on the excesses and uncontainability of cinema and popular culture in general as it circulates through individual lives and accrues unforeseen narrative resonances.
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