Manos a la Obra
Manos a la Obra gathers projects created in long-standing and speculative public marketplaces in the Tijuana-Los Angeles transborder region, continuing oour interest in documenting transnational economic and cultural networks of exchange at the scale of the local.
In this latest body of work, we stage dialogues between the handmade and the mass-produced, between craft and second-hand goods, and between the terrestrial and the celestial through a series of conceptual/sculptural gestures that are inspired by the labor that artisans and vendors undertake to transform material and socio-economic conditions.
The exhibition features collaborative gestures undertaken in the last year with Santa Monica artisans and vendors working toward establishing a community marketplace in the city to function as a platform for self-determination and collective agency. With a core group of collaborators including Ines Garcia, Laura Hernandez, Carmela Morales, Lily Alinaghizadeh, Abby Juan and 18th Street Arts Center intern Brian Rojas, Market Exchange has met since Fall of 2020 to begin forming a self-organized artisan vendor cooperative, created an installation at the Pico Pop-Up gallery in collaboration with the Pico Improvement Organization, produced a website, and held several pop-up marketplaces in Santa Monica.
Casa de Cambio / Currency Exchange
Plaster piggy bank, debossed chocolate coins, digital print. Variable dimensions.
In solidarity with community-led efforts to create a local artisan marketplace in the city, the work invites the public to exchange US Dollars (USD) for an imagined currency: golden chocolate coins stamped with a speculative logo for the future market. The public is invited to establish their own system of valuation and equivalence by depositing a self-determined amount into the plaster piggy bank – produced by hand in the border city of Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico – and taking a chocolate coin in exchange. At the end of the exhibition, funds will be turned over to the groups of artisans who will administer the future market collectively, as part of the Market Exchange initiative facilitated by the artists.
Puesto Tianquiztli / Tianquiztli Stall
Steel poles and fixtures, concrete hand weights, embroidered mesh tarps. 10 x 10 ft.
Street markets in Mexico are known as tianguis, from the indigenous Nahuatl tianquiztli, meaning “marketplace.” Within Aztec cosmology, this was also the name given to the Pleiades constellation: a dense collection of stars in a relatively small region of the sky, which recalled a market gathering – known within other indigenous cultures as the “seven sisters.” With this as a point of departure, the artists drafted a speculative “creation story” for public marketplaces.
This story is embroidered on a shade tarp alongside three symbols sourced from and inspired by pre-Columbian texts – a day/night sky band from the Codex Borgia (blue), a drawing of the Tianquiztli constellation from the Primeros Memoriales (pink), and a “cross-roads” glyph associated with the patron god of commerce and travelers Yacatecuhtli from the codex Fejérváry-Mayer (green).
These tarps will be stretched on two steel structures like those widely used in tianguis market, whose poles have been decorated to resemble depictions of walking sticks carried by pre-Columbian merchants who would bundle these together to collectively rest upon along their journeys.
Once assembled, these structures will serve as the founding stalls or puestos of the artisan marketplace being organized by Market Exchange artisans.
Market Exchange / Manos a la Obra
Installation of craft products & LED Neon Sign. Dimensions Variable.
Market Exchange is a collaboration between Santa Monica artisans and Cog•nate Collective working to amplify the works of local artisans and develop economic platforms for self-determination, including their goal of establishing a community-led marketplace in the city.
This installation – which was first installed at the Pico Improvement Organization’s “Pop Up” as part of the exhibition "Un Mundo Nuevo en Pico" – brings together handmade items created and curated by an inter-generational group of local women artisans who have been spearheading these efforts.
The LED faux-neon sign that accompanied the original Market Exchange installation at the Pico “Pop Up” as a window display is also included here. It was created in honor of working-class forms of labor taking place on the block around the “Pop Up”: using one's hands to cut hair, using one's hands to paint nails, using one's hands to repair an engine in a mechanic shop, using one's hands to prepare/cook a meal, using one's hands to upholster a piece of furniture, etc.
The result draws connections between such forms of labor, and the forms of labor that are undertaken by Market Exchange artisans – using ones hands to craft jewelry, using one's hands to knit a shawl, using one's hands to create paper crafts, etc. – inviting a more complicated consideration of what is “handmade” and the valuation of labor.
A limited-number of Market Exchange products are on sale and can be purchased by visiting:
Untitled (the artist’s studio or el puesto Zarate) / Market Dialogues
Pencil on paper. 11 in. x 14 in. / Digital Print, Text, Pencil Drawing. 24 x 36 in.
For the past 7 years, Nestor E. Zarate has set up a small easel to produce drawings on commission at the Sobreruedas Pancho Villa. The artists commissioned Nestor to produce a drawing of his informal studio, located inside of his father’s stall, dedicated to selling second-hand shoes, clothes and furniture sourced from across the border. This initiated a collaboration between the artists and Nestor to create a series of drawings from this and other markets in the region, which in turn led to the creation of a series of “collages” featuring photographs produced by the artists, drawings produced by Zarate, and found texts. The resulting juxtapositions reflect on social, cultural, and political dimensions of marketplaces within immigrant communities.
Digital Prints. 8 in. x 10 in. photographs.
Burgeoning photographic archive documenting contemporary marketplaces in the greater border region of Tijuana (the Sobreruedas Otay Modulos, the Sobreruedas de la Villa), San Diego (the Spring Valley Swap Meet, the National City Swap Meet), and Los Angeles County (the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet). The images seek to capture the everyday textures, and poetics of such spaces.
Sin Título (Homenaje a lxs últimxs fabricantes de neon en Tijuana) [Untitled (Homage to the last fabricators of neon in Tijuana)]
Neon. 48 in. x 21 in.
The city of Tijuana – located across the U.S./Mexico border from San Diego, CA – is much more renowned for its industrial manufacturing than for its craft production. Neon – which sits at the intersection of these two spheres of production – is one of the last remaining craft traditions in the city, and today, faces extinction given the influx of cheaper flexible LED lights. This piece, an homage to the neon tradition in Tijuana, was produced by the last neon studio in the city and is based on a photograph produced by the artists while documenting the fabrication process.
En todas partes y en ninguna a la vez... (El Cielo del Sobreruedas) [Everywhere and nowhere at once (The sky of the Sobreruedas)]
Video. Duration: 11 minutes.
Sky-oriented recording documenting a walk through the sobreruedas [market “on-wheels”] de la Villa – a popular tianguis street market located in the Colonia Francisco Villa in Tijuana. The title is borrowed from a popular saying by the Mexican Revolutionary figure who gives the neighborhood, and the market by extension, it's name.