We Run Things, Things Don’t Run We at Angels Gate Cultural Center

We Run Things, Things Don’t Run We, Angels Gate Cultural Center, Photo Credit Santos Nunez

We Run Things, Things Don’t Run We

Angels Gate Cultural Center, San Pedro
Through December 10, 2022

Written by Austin Janisch
For twenty years Slanguage Studio has stood as a refuge, resource and repository for self-determinant art in Los Angeles County. The de facto art school and artist-run space founded in 2002 by Karla Diaz and Mario Ybarra Jr. in Wilmington, CA has enacted a potent impact on both those who have wandered into its doors and upon those who have borne witness to its vibrant output.

Presented at Angels Gate Cultural Center, We Run Things, Things Don’t Run We is a celebration of two decades worth of programming, creative teaching and community engagement. Curated by Gloria Gem Sánchez and Jynx Prado, the exhibition presents a portrait of the work and impact of Slanguage Studio highlighting its alumni, artistic output, and recurring programs in a manner that calls attention to the innate individuality of each of the twenty featured artists and “slangsters.”

Jumping between more playful moments and serious problematizations of our inhabited world, the exhibition includes the work of artists Yadira Agredano, Ben Avila, Raul Baltazar, Karla Diaz, Sarita Dougherty, Gaby, Alonso Garzon, Ed Gomez, EJ Hill, Raghubir Kintisch, Antonio De Jesus Lopez, Amitis Motevalli, Aydinaneth Ortiz, Perl, Jynx Prado, Felix F. Quintana, Guadalupe Rosales, Marlene Tafoya, Arnoldo Vargas, and Mario Ybarra Jr.. Each artist draws inspiration from graffiti art, countercultures, decoloniality and Los Angeles resulting in a diverse display of mediums, messages, and critical questioning.

Arnoldo Vargas’ Notice to Appear: Defendant’s Copy (2009) is a striking vignette of the outcome over policing and increased criminalization has on young people, especially those of color. A public school educator, Vargas witnessed his students face criminal charges for minor or even baseless infractions. Juxtaposing black and white studio photographs of students with photocopies of issued police citations, the harsh reality that these young men and women face while simply attending school questions our sense of justice. Though each 5 x 7 studio portrait does not necessarily correspond to the accompanying citation, the photographs prompt not merely a reconsideration of, but act as call for an appraisal of the reality of many students’ educational experience.

Delving into the impact of Los Angeles architecture upon its residents through the medium of a podcast, Perl, also known as Dona Junta, calls attention to carceral institutions and the turbulent effect that these overlooked sites have upon not only its occupants, but the community at large. As part of a larger project and podcast, the installation Ghosts of Our Youth: Abandoned Institutions & the Impact on Los Angeles Youth (2022) focuses on youth centers and the statement that their stark construction, foreboding entrances and removed site convey. Accompanied by photographs, the video podcast recalls the work of Michel Foucault as it once again brings to the fore the important question of the role such sites play in our society. Akin to other works featured in the exhibition, Perl shows an interest in alternative histories and the outcome that changes in practice, policy and perspective can enact.

An ongoing project, Cal State San Bernadino Professor Ed Gomez’s GOCA (Gallery of Contemporary Art) (2004-present) is a “self-contained fully functional art gallery.” Housed within a suitcase, the project, whose inception dates back to the early days of Slanguage, challenges exhibition practices as its size and mobility afford an unprecedented ease of display. Complete with to scale works contributed to the gallery by various artists, the presented iteration of GOCA showcases works from its permanent collection.

Far more than a look back upon past endeavors, the exhibition showcases a fostering of artists who engage with community issues that are representative of their own identity. The presented works crucially highlight that robust art can come from anywhere and anyone. We Run Things, Things Don’t Run We makes clear that from the everyday, the banal and breaks from convention, new voices can carve out a space of profound vocabulary. Slanguage Studio, through both engagement and celebration with our community is an active space whose voice continues to magnify. The exhibition shines a spotlight on the enduring legacy of a vital community resource while conveying that this association’s impact is far from over as it looks toward the future and the work that lies ahead. 

We Run Things, Things Don’t Run We will be on view at Angeles Gate Cultural Center through December 10, 2022

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