Petzel is pleased to present “Commonwealth and Council,” a collaborative summer show on view on the parlor floor of the gallery’s Upper East Side location from June 29 to August 5. Commonwealth and Council is a gallery in Koreatown, Los Angeles, founded in 2010. An artist-run apartment space that over the years grew—in size as well as maturity—and evolved with the artists, Commonwealth and Council now represents 37 artists, doubling down on the goal of building counter-narratives that reflect our individual and collective realities. The artists Cayetano Ferrer, Gala Porras-Kim, Nikita Gale, rafa esparza, and Suki Seokyeong Kang, who have come together in this show, converge at an interest in the unvoiced, acknowledging that meaning occurs at a host of myriad idiosyncratic registers—and propose alternative modalities of knowledge, speech, and value systems.
Gala Porras-Kim disrupts museological and anthropological conventions, playfully poking holes in the practical logic of conservators and registrars to advocate for the material and philosophical conditions that objects under institutional “stewardship” face. The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing at the Met 1982–2021 fragment is a cube made of dust and residue collected during deinstallation in the eponymous gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It sheds light on the physical conditions surrounding art while also questioning what is auxiliary to the “object” and under what circumstances the residue of a culture becomes an artifact.
Upon first glance, a pair of marble fragments appear incongruously mounted on sleek pedestals. Like Porras-Kim, Cayetano Ferrer examines institutional environments and how they contextualize and project upon cultural artifacts. Ferrer underscores the feigned neutrality in the museum pedestal and proposes instead a display system that exhibits its own placelessness, calling out by extension the arbitrariness inherent in attempting to house a displaced object in a supposedly ahistorical context.
Ferrer applies this same lens to the American West and specifically the hyperreality of Las Vegas, with Remnant Recomposition 5 (Section C), a swathe of carpet composed of swatches from the floors of various Vegas casinos. Each pattern appropriates a different visual tradition—synecdoche for the ahistorical jumble of cliches presented by the casinos themselves. In Remnant Recomposition, Ferrer reappropriates this pastiching, collapsing time, place, and culture to create a hybrid entity straddling function, design, and art.
In Nikita Gale’s WATCH MEEEEEE, an imbroglio of audio cables and concrete-dipped terrycloth overtakes and disrupts the shape and purpose of an aluminum barrier like those commonly found at concerts and public events. Draped, slung, and knotted, the confusion of materials evokes both the obfuscation and conduction of sound. While from one perspective the tangles suggest an uncanny logic (a notation system perhaps), here Gale has proposed an erosion of coherence; the audio cables are planted into the ground as if tuned into some foundational, grounding frequency—or simply willfully ignoring what may be circulating outside.
Suki Seokyeong Kang similarly appropriates and reimagines collisions between the industrial and the incongruously hand-constructed, backing steel lattices with hand-woven Korean reed mats (Hwamunseok). Irregular leather scraps and stray threads playfully punctuate the modernist grid; it is as if Kang asks us to consider what subversions or tangents these seemingly rigid structures may accommodate. Kang assembles her sculptures according to an idiosyncratic syntax of form, material, and referent. In Tender Meander #19-08, a steel cylinder crowns a slice of tree trunk, supported by a cluster of wheeled legs that recall an office chair; yet the sculpture as gestalt resembles in form and proportion an anthropomorph. In compelling the viewer to navigate around and amongst these constructs, Kang suggests an awareness of how one occupies space and navigates the interstices of self and other.
A new series of paintings by rafa esparza inverts stigmas often levied against Black and Brown youth, reconceptualizing silver dental caps as status-conferring body modifications found in pre-Columbian remains. esparza renders ghostly teeth studded with stones or replaced by chunks of jade on a ground of unpainted adobe, swabbed onto a chicken-wire grid from which scraps of hay and textured chunks protrude in incidents of form and material. For esparza, adobe stands as metaphor for Brown skin; it is as if the earth anchors the teeth, even as they float unmoored or articulate a skull’s grin.
Commonwealth and Council is a gallery in Koreatown, Los Angeles founded in 2010. Our program is rooted in our commitment to explore how a community of artists can sustain our co-existence through generosity and hospitality. Commonwealth and Council celebrates our manifold identities and experiences through the shared dialogue of art—championing practices by women, queer, POC, and our ally artists to build counter-histories that reflect our individual and collective realities.