Give a Dog a Bad Name and Hang Him
December 1-22, 2018
Opening Reception: December 1, 6-9 pm
Ever Gold [Projects] is pleased to present Give a Dog a Bad Name and Hang Him, the gallery’s second solo exhibition with Los Angeles based artist Mario Ayala. Featuring five airbrushed paintings on canvas and six works on paper, this new body of work employs a type of figurative language in which elements coordinate and contradict themselves narratively and spatially. Ayala applies this figurative language to social and urban histories, exploring representations of brownness and Latinx identity within the field of painting, and in the way visual representations are able to echo a discursive reality.
Ayala grew up watching his father work on cars and motorcycles, and receiving ballpoint pen drawings from him as gifts when he returned home from work as a truck driver. Attending car shows and swap meets in Los Angeles, Ayala was exposed to a variety of painting techniques that are distinct from traditional art world methods: car painting and airbrushing were the artist’s earliest and most poignant references for creative expression. Ayala credits his father as his primary influence, and this is visible in his work, but he utilizes these familiar techniques and images in ways that are distinct from their original applications. As a simplified example, Ayala utilizes auto-body painting techniques designed to emphasize or reinforce the physical structure of a car in ways that distort and transform his subjects, or applies the techniques to objects that do not typically garner this kind of elevating treatment.
Although arguably not breaking news, it seems reasonable to reinforce here: Latinx creative endeavors—in music, visual art, tattooing, car culture, and many other areas—permeate popular culture in the U.S. more and more thoroughly, both autonomously and through widespread cultural appropriation. Ayala’s work can be seen as a kind of reclamation with twists, as it embraces iconic images and stylistic gestures while suggesting that these structures are much larger and more dynamic than a common pop cultural representation might convey. Ayala is similarly interested in visual representations of translation and the slippages that can occur with language. In a painting titled Insurance Claim, a sad old dog is seen busting through a steering wheel with text reading “GUYCO” instead of “GEICO,” making reference to the complexity of translation and to Los Angeles’s particular bootleg culture in which counterfeit items attain validation in their own right, both as reasonable stand-ins for authentic items and as mashups that harness the impact of high end branding in the creation of new hybrid forms.
Here in San Francisco, where the artist lived while attending the San Francisco Art Institute, Ayala looks at the rapid gentrification of the Mission district as a terrain in which physical and social boundaries are enacted, maintained, transgressed, and reconfigured, with results that range from transformative to destructive. The small scale of San Francisco relative to Los Angeles makes the transformation of the Mission distinctly visible in a way that allows it to function as an excellent case study for the dynamics Ayala is concerned with. Ayala offers Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” as an allegory: in the poem, man makes and breaks certain physical boundaries, with the poet relating these boundaries to societal divisions and emphasizing contradictions within society through this framework. Frost writes of maintaining a wall between properties,
“The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.”
Frost questions the motivations that lead individuals to construct boundaries between themselves, and the balance between realistic need and symbolic purpose. The supposedly necessary mending of the wall is framed by Frost as largely performative or symbolic, as the physical entities that require its presence (namely, cows) are no longer present; when challenged, the neighbor can only suggest that “Good fences make good neighborrs.” In a painting titled Mending Acquaintances, Ayala similarly explores both physical and social boundaries. A central figure is seen through the weave of a chain-link fence; friends in the background of the image are treated with a distance that allows the central figure to be seen as unmasking himself, perhaps allowing a viewer or neighbor to see him authentically, or perhaps reflecting the assumptions a viewer/neighbor might have of him.
Recasting images and techniques in new roles, Ayala deconstructs and expands common perceptions of his chosen categories of images and aesthetics, while offering enough of the original material to represent the traditions from which these forms originate. Through hybridizing these forms and treating them as larger structures to be expanded, Ayala builds a visual language capable of mirroring the physical and social transformations of the landscape.
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Mario Ayala was born in 1991 in Los Angeles, California. Now based in Los Angeles, Ayala graduated from The San Francisco Art Institute in 2014 where he received the Yale Norfolk fellowship in 2012. He was a participant at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2014. Recent exhibitions include AUT Of Body at Loyal Gallery, Stockholm (solo, 2018); Sun Sprawl at Club Pro Los Angeles (2018); Pen Pal at Ever Gold [Projects], San Francisco (solo, 2017); Seasoned And Embarrassed Like A Wet Dog at SADE, Los Angeles (solo, 2017); Welcome To The Left Coast at The Luggage Store Gallery, San Francisco (2016); Summer Group Show at Hashimoto Contemporary, San Francisco (2016); The House Of Special Purpose at 99¢ Plus Gallery, Brooklyn (2016); Something Completely Different at City Limits, Oakland (2014); 5 Year Anniversary at Ever Gold Gallery, San Francisco (2014); Locals Only at RVSF, San Francisco (2014); and Give + Take at Adobe Books, San Francisco (2013).
Dazed: Latinx: art angels
Flaunt Magazine: Mario Ayala
San Francisco Chronicle: Ayala’s ‘Pen Pal’ exhibition has themes of prison, family
KQED: Cy and David’s Picks: Tenting in London with Occupy, Prison Pen Pals, and Broken Hearts in Paris
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