James Fuentes LLC is pleased to announce Alejandro Cardenas’ forthcoming debut solo exhibition, Arctic Cross. In lieu of a standard press release we’ve included recent correspondence between the gallery and the artist.
Hey James, I’ve gone ahead and answered some basic questions about the work. I hope you’ll find it useful.
Q: Alejandro, who is the guy who looks like a zombie with a turtleneck playing guitar?
A: He’s not a zombie, he’s more of a living mummy. He’s an arctic explorer who got lost and set up camp to die, but never died, lived forever and floated through space after the earth crumbled below him. He eventually gets picked up by aliens in a passing spaceship.
Q: Are the aliens the guys with the intricate faces or the women?
A: The guys with the intricate faces are the aliens.
Q: So then who are all the women (and why are they all so skinny?)?
A: The women exist to the Explorer as ghosts. Images of women have been used throughout history as symbols of earthly desire and they are functioning in that capacity here. They represent everything he has lost and will never have again. (They are so skinny because this is generally the way our culture portrays beautiful women. It’s not a choice based on my personal taste, it’s more a matter of cultural positioning.)
Q: So there’s all this narrative, do you wonder whether the viewer would get more out of the work if they had access to it? Why didn’t you just make a graphic novel?
A: I see the narrative and the drawings having a similar relationship that a religious text has to an object of worship. One is not necessary for the experience of the other, yet they are solidly intertwined. It’s the idea of sets of symbols adding up to a feeling, which guides the mind into a space where it is curious and willing to explore. Imagine someone walking into a cathedral for the first time, and asking: “why would man build such a thing?” and then you just hand him a Bible. It’s funny because the Bible has no language outlining the specifics of a Gothic cathedral, yet the narrative is epic enough to make man say “I have to build the craziest building possible to represent this” and it makes sense. So with my own work I start with something that everyone can relate to, like feeling alone, then I make up a story about it and make drawings that pull symbols and ideas from everything I’m interested in, and hope that the feeling gets communicated.
Q: So what are you interested in?
A: I’m really interested in beauty, and understanding what it’s about and how it functions. What interests me about it is that it’s often not intellectual but completely visceral. Things either feel beautiful or they don’t and I spend a lot of time trying to understand the relationship between what I know intellectually and what I feel. Another thing I’m interested in is how ideology or belief ends up being represented visually. It’s difficult to imagine the millions of symbols we see every day that can be effectively understood and identified. Each organization, whether it’s a religion or a car company, has their own aesthetic language that is recognizable and at the same time expandable. (For example after 44 years a Ford Mustang, having evolved considerably, is still visually identifiable as a Ford Mustang) Since my drawings are representational I get free reign of this infinite library of symbols. In essence my intent is to take iconography from various cultural narratives and recombine them until their sources are no longer legible.
Q: Can you explain the title?
A: The title “Arctic Cross” goes back to the Explorer, my protagonist. He’s crossing Antarctica, and never makes it across it in the traditional sense. Instead he stays there and it disappears and changes around him, and he lives forever, kind of like JC, so there’s the other meaning of cross. Both crosses are a curse and salvation. Anything else? Let me know.