“Cashing Out” – Interview with Julio César Morales

Julio César Morales is Adjunct Curator at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and founder/co-curator of Queens Nails Annex/Projects, in San Francisco. Morales recently served as guest juror for Cashing Out, Kala’s third exhibition in our series about systems. He has chosen 22 artists and art collectives for the exhibition, which focuses on artists’ interpretations of alternative financial systems.

Cashing Out opens at Kala Gallery this Thursday evening, October 27, with a public reception for the artists from 6-8PM.
I had a chance to speak with Julio about the exhibition, the artists and their work, and his thoughts about the selection process. -Eric Hoffman

EH: What was your original understanding of the themes addressed in “Cashing Out?”

JCM: Well it was very open, there wasn’t that much detail. So I took it upon myself to interpret that phrase. A lot of my own artwork deals with informal economies both in the US and in Mexico, so I thought that there was a nice connection to the thematics of the exhibition.

So how would you describe the group of works that you selected for Cashing Out?

I would describe it as necessary, timely, and now. With everything that’s happening right now, with all the protests, I think that we need to re-think and take another look at how the economy within art functions and how it does not function: how art is creating alternative forms and ways, in which artists do not have to wait for a gallery to pick them up, represent them, and sell their work. Artists can take it upon themselves just as street vendors do, to create their own economies.

It’s what I loved in choosing the artists for this exhibition—that in one way or another they’re exploring alternative ways of becoming a working artist, and not relying on the gallery system.

Dan Tague

Did you have any expectation of what you were going to see before your review of the submissions?

No, I was hoping that it was going to be good work, and I was fortunate that there was really amazing work to choose from. In the end, instead of just a potluck of different art, and different artists, what I wanted was an exhibition of works that really resonate with each other—where there are bridges and dialog created between the works.

What were some of the connections or threads that developed?

One thread was this sort of “vending cart” idea that certain artists created. Another was in the use of different mediums that don’t rely on painting or sculpture.

There was Amy Keefer, who created these really amazing soaps—sort of like this commodity object. They’re therapeutic soaps, with little gold flakes and different types of scents. It’s actually a kind of performance that turns into the object on display. And then there’s the fact that these soaps resemble bricks of gold. There’s a connection from that piece to a couple of other bodies of work: one is Jenny Wiener’s  How Long is the Yellow Brick Road? And there are some other abstracted pieces as well.

And then there are Lauren DiCioccio’s hand-sewn bills…and Sarah Hirneisen, who created these fake 100-dollar bill wreaths (Welcome Home) that she would just leave on people’s doorsteps, and then make a document of. We have one of her wreaths actually in the exhibition, along with documentation from that intervention.

Lauren DiCioccio

A lot of the works also connect as artist interventions in public spaces. In one of the pieces, called Freepile, Jocelyn Meggait just collected objects from garage sales, and they will be free for people to take. We decided to locate that basically on the doorstep of the Kala Gallery.

What some of these works seem to be addressing rather than alternative financial systems, are alternatives to financial systems—would that be correct?

I think they’re a parallel thing. There’s a couple of things in the exhibition that take that aspect into consideration. David Hamlow made these sculptural brick studies—with objects inside the bricks. He wants people to adopt the bricks and to continue his process, his idea of archiving a collection. There’s this idea of letting go, and this exchange of power. When someone owns your piece, or with something like what he is doing—where someone acquires the piece, for money or no money, the piece itself continues and is transformed. So there are these examples where artists are letting go of their hand within the work and losing power—leaving it to audiences to continue the work and to reflect, and to use that more in their daily lives.

It almost encourages the viewers to stop being viewers.

Yes exactly…“Activate.” Much of the work in Cashing Out is a lot more active than you would see in other exhibitions. Some of these works rely very much on audiences to finish the work. The audience is connecting and interacting; In a way it’s an informal collaboration that they’re taking on with the artist. They are finishing the work, with and for the artist—and the work continues on, as it passes into their own private spaces.

Art for a Democratic Society

When you hear the term “Art World,” what do you take it to mean?

It seems like something less attainable in a way, you know—like there’s a hierarchy and a specific way to advance yourself as an artist. I think shows like Cashing Out are necessary, in breaking down some of those boundaries and giving the spotlight to some of these artists.

It’s very important to question the art world, because it’s been the same for a very long time. And at what point as an artist do you participate (in the art world), and at what point do you decide that it’s beneficial not to participate? There’s that choice, of taking that risk, of not being represented by a commercial gallery, and selling your work on the street.

It’s interesting…recently a local artist, Stephanie Syjuco, put on her Shadowshop project at SFMOMA. She created a platform where over 200 artists displayed and sold their work at the museum. And SFMOMA got basically zero percent of that—the artists kept 100 percent. So that speaks volumes to the structure of the museum. This is part of Stephanie’s work as well, looking at pirated culture and kind of subverting institutions. Hopefully that will happen more—artists will collaborate with institutions and maybe change specific policies within them.

Walter Robinson

This entry was posted in Events and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  • Events Calendar

    • Events are coming soon, stay tuned!
  • Categories

  • Archives