Unraveling family history

Angélica Maria Millán Lozano’s Treguas at the new Fuller Rosen Gallery

by LUSI LUKOVA

Treguas or “Truces” is an exhibition of firsts. It is Angélica Maria Millán Lozano’s first solo show and the the first show presented at the new Fuller Rosen Gallery located in the Ford Building.

The space, Fuller Rosen, is the creative effort of E.M. Fuller and BriAnna Rosen, both formerly of Killjoy PDX. This collaborative project aims to exhibit local and national artists who are addressing urgent, contemporary issues. This new project allows Fuller and Rosen to expand upon the work they started at Killjoy in a more focused and dedicated manner. The curatorial team is two rather than six and the location is more accessible. Fuller and Rosen chose Lozano as their first artist because of their commitment to promoting the voices of up-and-coming creatives.

Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, much of Lozano’s work is deeply charged and personally resonant. While some artists choose to make space between their work and personal lives, Lozano rejects any boundary between the two. To fully understand her practice one must be privy to a generous and intimate understanding of her upbringing. Family narrative is central. In unearthing deep-set pain and trauma she wrestles with the imperfection of all humans, even beloved family members. Lozano explains, “[t]he way that I present the work, however, is mostly centered in the resilience of subjects rather than the pain.” Treguas is an examination of Lozano’s grandmother who was forced to marry an older man at the age of fifteen. This age is pivotal in Latin American culture because it is the year in which a young girl celebrates her Quinceañera, her rite of passage into womanhood. In a time meant to be devoted to celebration and looking forward to a lifetime of joy and exploration, Lozano’s grandmother experienced the opposite. The works in Treguas explore the grandmother’s story.

“Treguas” Installation View, 2018. Image courtesy of Ryan Krueger.

Taken in sequence, the six works tell a story that begins with shiny, hopeful promise, then climaxes in pain and culminates in resignation and woeful acceptance. Gallery-goers can experience this entire emotional upheaval by simply walking the gallery clockwise and taking a moment to consider each textile work as a moment in Lozano’s grandmother’s adolescent life. The materials speak to the idea of the traditional female domestic sphere and play upon the ties between women, garments, adornment, and homemaking. Many are materials associated with celebration and displays of beauty but the undercurrent is much darker as these materials are burned or torn or otherwise desecrated.

Deshilado, opposite the gallery entrance, is made of synthetic fiber, silver sequins, and a zipper. Fabric spills out of the gap created by the half closed zipper, evoking yonic imagery in its overt femininity and flashiness. This is the exhibition’s most sexually charged work. It is also the only work in the show that uses silver; all of the other works use gold, even down to the installation wiring. Lozano says she used silver because of its reflective quality and because, in Lozano’s words, it becomes “bigger and louder than the space it takes up.” I saw the silver as more innocent, as less tainted with familial obligation than gold, which has associations with family heirlooms. As this is the point of entry into the narrative, this makes sense though the title foreshadows what is still to come: deshilado means unraveled.

The hanging sculpture immediately to the right, entitled Hurtado, is done in an ostentatious gold synthetic fabric held by a brass chain. It gives viewers the urge to poke and prod. Each of the works in the exhibition have a very tactile quality to them, but Hurtado in particular engages more than one sense. It is a large, globular form held hanging in place by a mesh fabric; the breeze of walking past it causes it to sway, making it appear pliable, yet the fabric used to create the lump gives it a hard and jagged appearance, like a small boulder. The work reminds me of two disparate objects: a punching bag and a piñata. One is associated with the expression of anger, and the other with feelings of cheer. Yet, both objects are engaged through a similar motion: you hit a punching bag just as you might a piñata. The conflation seems poignant in this second stage of the story — I read it as the scene in which the marriage is announced. It is both a time for excitement, on the part of the family, and a time of frustration, on the part of the bride. The work bears a double significance but maintains its gaudy and glittering frenzy.

Decadencia 03, done in collaboration with Portland-based artist Hunter Buck, is a beautifully woven cotton tapestry that Lozano has then meticulously unraveled in the middle. The threads that are purposefully extracted drape and cascade down towards the ground making the piece fold in on itself, creating an illusion of two disparate parts trying to pull together and hanging only by strings. This reads to me like a traditional wedding blanket, slaved over with love, and given with expectation to a young bride. The unraveling taking place can be attributed to the uncertainty Lozano’s grandmother was surely feeling in her upcoming marriage, the loss of her independence. Done in cooler, darker tones, a blanket such as this one is meant to usher good tidings and a fruitful life. Instead, what we see here is a gift already set up to fall apart, woven together under false pretenses and destined for destruction.

Angélica Maria Millán Lozano and Hunter Buck. “Decadencia 03,” 2018. Image courtesy of Ryan Krueger.

The culminating point in the narrative and in the exhibition is Quinsiañeros, a hanging piece consisting of two screenprinted portraits on in velvet and cotton staged in the On the left, the portrait of the artist’s grandfather on their wedding day show him as stoic and virile. On the right, with an overlay of burnout roses, is her grandmother in her bridal veil. The bottom of the stretch of fabric onto which her grandmother is printed is torn and rumpled, perhaps an indication that she may not be fully intact, while the image of the grandfather is untouched. A piece of gold sequined fabric connects the two. A direct tie to Lozano herself, this gold sequin fabric is a direct upcycling from an old dress of the artist’s that she used to wear when going out. It is of note that her grandfather is the first male that Lozano has ever incorporated into her work. That the first man she should ever feature in her works is one she sees as a villainous figure, molded by the toxic masculinity of the era, solidifies Lozano’s personal stake in creating this piece.

The final two works on display return to focus the grandmother as the sole object of attention. Quinsiañera repeats her portrait as in Quinciañeros and the mottled rose motif on velvet and cotton. However, in this rendition her isolation as the only figure on view brings her story full circle. Although she may be married now, in a way bound to this man until death, she stands alone. In disengaging from the duality of the Quinciañeros and featuring only the portrait of her grandmother, the impression is one of autonomy instead of captivity. The fabric which adheres to the portrait is worn through with holes and stained with spots.

“Treguas” Installation View, 2018. Image courtesy of Ryan Krueger.

The final work in the show, Smeared, is smudged with lipstick and reminiscent of a used makeup wipe tarnished with a full day’s worth of beauty products, Smeared evokes a scene in which a young girl comes home at the end of an evening, perhaps similar to evenings the artist herself may have had with friends in flashy gold dresses, and removes her makeup before going to bed. Smeared however, gives off a more ominous tone, one in which the stains may reflect tears and entrapment as opposed to a fun night of dancing. The gaudiness of the fabric and the futility of the situation are apparent. The desire for this to be a joyous image can still be felt, but a new normalcy of oppression is settling in. For better or for worse, the celebration has ended, and the party is over.

Lozano received her MFA in Visual Studies at Pacific Northwest College of Art, and is the co-founder of cvllejerx, a poc-focused fashion, poetry, and performance collaboration. The works presented at Treguas are the result of two residencies: one at The School of Visual Arts, in New York, and the other at The Oxbow School, in Michigan. For all of these works, the way they are presented here is their first and final formal realization. The truces Lozano grapples with here are as much relational to her family as they are internal. The artist is reckoning with her own desires and oppressions as they stand compared to traditional expectations for her upbringing. Treguas reads like a bridge, a compromise with familial obligations, but individualized in a way more palatable to the artist. She addresses her discomfort with certain expected rituals and values by exposing them so overtly on view in the gallery.

The content of the work is just as intimate as the making of the work. As a result, she is able to assert her own experience and narrative of pressures and expectations, while still paying a touching and humbling homage to her grandmother. In doing so, she brings our attention to how family history defines us and shapes our present.

Fuller Rosen Gallery is located at 2505 SE 11th Ave Suite 106 on the first floor of the Ford Building. Gallery hours are Thursdays – Sundays from 10am – 5pm. The exhibition continues through December 20th

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