“I feel that there’s a lot of skirting around it, like it’s about the culture, but I’m always, like, no—it’s about economies,” Lucia Hierro told us in her feature this past Summer. “That’s really what it’s about: The way we live our lives in this sea of uncertainty and debt, where we continue to talk about our individual identities, when, in fact, these larger systems and structures are talked about theoretically—but never in terms of their direct impact on us, or the fact that so much of our culture is manufactured and branded.”
I have been thinking a lot of Hierro’s work this past summer, how her enlarged works of everyday objects as a central focus in her creative practice, how she has transformed our idea of the things we carry and purchase as a sense of what it that is branded around us and how we buy into based on our economic flexibility or lack thereof. Recently, I was watching a BBC special on American art, and the likes of Warhol and Jasper Johns and the Pop artists came up, obviously, and how their work set to speak about the familiarity and overwhelming propensity for familiarity to overtake our lives. Options become hazards. Hierro’s work is like the great Pop artists of eras past, but with a new reimagination. Her new solo show, Tal Cual, on view now at Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles, is an exemplary display of the artist’s best and most thought-provoking works.
The gallery notes her work “parses identity and economics through the language of consumer products, foodstuffs, items from the neighborhood bodega and from the streets of her neighborhood of Washington Heights / Inwood, NYC.” The gallery notes a similarity to the likes of Tom Wesselmann, but I keep coming back to Johns and Warhol. Johns’ pop expressions, the flag mainly, was a beautiful articulation of his disappointments with the American system, an almost violent reaction to consumerism and the idea of the “Dream.” Warhol’s repititions and illusions of options and using the soup can as a perfect example of banality and choice seem to fit so well with Hierro’s Mercado series, the large shopping bags of items found at local corner stores, or Targets, or CVS pharmacy. The ability to enlarge our consumption habits, to give a larger-than-life version of our economic and consumer options, or what is noted as “identity common to Latinx culture(s) and the numerous microeconomies resident in Lucia’s neighborhood in New York City,” Hierro is touching on newer and more nuanced territories in her work.
“Now is definitely the time to talk about economies and late capitalism in general,” Hierro told us. “Through talking about our lived experiences with a friend, I learned that his family’s in Miami, near Little Haiti, and that’s the sugar they use—Domino sugar. It’s so wild how they completely understand their own history and the ongoing slavery with the Dominican Republic when it comes to manufacturing all this stuff, but they’re still a Haitian family in Miami, and that’s what they buy. That’s what they know. I’m fascinated with that relationship and I want to continue to sort of capture that awkward rub.” —Evan Pricco