“Upstate Manhattan” is what I have taken to calling my home turf in New York City. Technically named “Inwood”, my neighborhood is a vibrant mix of different ethnicities with the Dominican population being perhaps the most widespread. Having grown up in this northernmost part of the city, alot of the visual language that I saw in “Mercado”, a new show of work by the artist Lucia Hierro, was familiar and comforting to me.
Lotto tickets, platano chips, Nikes, supermarket circulars – commonplace objects from my everyday environment are literally elevated in Hierro’s work as soft sculptures sheathed in enormous tote bags. They function, in a way, like vessels of memory.
The six bags on display house an array of mementos, and each tell its own story with these objects cast as protagonists. Interestingly, sometimes the reincarnated detritus is juxtaposed against masterpieces of artwork from the European tradition. In so doing, a conversation across time and space ensues.
As if Hierro is showing us her heritage and her legacy in one fell swoop, “Mercado” is both nostalgic and prescient. It feels as if a new era of inclusion in the annals of Art History is being forged in Hierro’s market. Codes that were previously available only to a certain part of the population are exposed in her transparent bags. Indeed, the daily life of New Yorkers from a very specific socioeconomic and cultural class are writ large as Artwork in this environment.
Whether a native New Yorker or a transplant, "Mercado" can offer you a glimpse into a city that is in flux and an artist who is memorializing her environment one bag at a time.
Is Hierro's New York something that you can relate to? If so, how do you place it in your own conception of personal and cultural history? Let me know in the comments.
"Mercado" is on view at The Elizabeth Dee Gallery in Harlem until February 24, 2018.
Also, continue to see art through my eyes on my Instagram story @victorjohnart.