In the Vast Toothpick Cities of the Future: Winter Group Exhibition

Press release

While organizing this exhibition at Make Room Los Angeles, I came across a passage in Etel Adnan's prose essay, "Journey to Mount Talampais," that reads:

The snow had melted in some spots. We found an inscription (as if the snow had pulled aside to make it visible). Somebody had written:”I spent the time making vast toothpick cities for the future based upon the rainbow” We spent the afternoon repeating this sentence (p47).

This found-object mantra kept accumulating meaning --the agency given to the snow, the grand gesture of the toothpick city, both apocalyptic and quaint. It is a speculative fiction based in craft and repetition that continues to build upon itself, growing toothpick by toothpick, utterance by utterance for Adnan in her journal, then again, through Adnan's book to be found, by me or someone else, just as it was on the mountain.

The artists included in this show seem to be at home in this mise-en-scene. From the wax paper paintings of Nikholis Planck depicting sharply draping stage sets, full of extension cords and houseplants, isolated like landmasses on their crinkling substrates, to Sophie Frieman-Pappas, whose work upends notions of disgust by exploring the existing DIY processes and histories of pigeon-houses, tanneries, and excrement, there is an individual and utilitarian approach -a toothpick approach- to making employed by each of these artists in their ability to utilize their material surroundings

Displayed on shelves as one might find in a boutique, Juan Escobedo's wearable cardboard cities and towns are built upon the framework of footwear. However, these delicately hand-cut cardboard and white paper constructions create a visual representation of socio-economic and racial divides that determine how those geological formations and their inhabitants are used, exploited, and sold.

Kristy Luck's paintings, in their modest scale, manage to breathe you into them. Like the snow of Mount Talampais, they seem to make space for the viewer, circluding their perspective in an abstract vista.

Jobi Bicos stretches found handkerchiefs over wooden frameworks allowing these delicate scrims to serve as grounds for even more delicate pencil drawings on torn shards of antique paper. The simplicity of these tactile arrangements call to mind the scraps of handwritten poetry from Emily Dickinson's archive or a rare insect, pinned down to be admired as a specimen.

There is a gentle patting depicted in Ranee Henderson's "Gravity Showing You Your Feet Again." In the midst of a teetering and upholstered expanse, a hummus of plant-life is placed around a child's legs by a larger figure seen from above. This curative gesture, a small attention akin to nesting, on such unstable ground seems to suggest intimacy as a necessary form of security. Similarly, Jane Margarette's sculpted ceramic locks, alienated from their original context, suggest an internal world worth protecting. A padlock in the form of a butterfly, adorned in jewelry and charms, hangs across from an oversized door chain implying something pleasurably perverse about the nature of locks while allowing a fractal relationship to be had between diaries, doorways, and a private inner life.

A kind of private inner life is made formally explicit in Nilay Lawson's work "Dust Cover" in which a painting is draped over an unknownpile of objects. Trompe l'oeil shadows mix with real shadows as the canvas falls and folds over whatever it might be hiding.

All of the artists included in the exhibtion, "In the Vast Toothpick Cities of the Future" embody a resourceful, intimate, and curious approach to their practices; aspects I believe inspire others to participate in and generate, with their hands or words, such a space for themselves. This philosophy for perceving and tinkering is necessary to cultivate –for the sake of doing more than just surviving in the vast toothpick cities of our future.

-Dan Herschlein, December 2022