LondonMelvino Garretti: Are We Moving and Listening?
Taymour Grahne Projects presents Are We Moving and Listening?, a solo show by LA based artist Melvino Garretti (B.1946).
There will be an online only presentation of works, as well as the physical show at ‘The Artist Room’ and a simultaneous opening down the road at the gallery’s 1 Lonsdale Road space, celebrating the opening of Martin Kazanietz’s solo exhibition Historias sin Fin.
Melvino Garretti was born in “South Central” Los Angeles, California, in the late 1940’s. He spent his formative years in Compton, California, a suburban LA community of middle-class black families who moved there from Watts during the 1950s. The experience of living and growing up as a young African American during those years offers a glimpse into the realities that formed Garretti’s early artistic vision, and is also the cornerstone of his practice to this day. The Watts Rebellion of 1965 occurred after a routine traffic stop that ultimately led to the killing of 24 innocent people by the police (LAPD) and National Guard. The Watts Rebellion that followed, forcefully and permanently shaped the community around him.
In the wake of the uprising, a glimmer of hope was ignited through creative and educational projects that began in the area. The advent of these programs, particularly the Studio Watts Workshop, proved to be a pivotal movement in Garretti’s life. The workshop was a pioneering non-profit that provided opportunities within the black community for creative experimentation. Garretti joined and collaborated with peers from Studio Watts in the late 60’s. Performance art was a focus of his time, including participation in the Ceremony of Us (1969) a collaboration between the San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop and the Studio Watts workshop.
Perhaps, this led to Garretti’s wider thoughts and fascinations and his now notable ceramic practice, work that is overtly rooted in the curiosity of the trials and tribulations of life rituals, amusements, discomforts and blisses. The idiosyncratic ceramics act as an archive for Garretti’s collected observations. In his youth, the work reflected anger and frustration, with his more recent explorations centering around a sense of hope. But even still, Garretti remains ambivalent, and this hope is underlined with a fraught context.
are we moving?
are we listening?
are we moving and listening?
Are We Moving and Listening? brings together sculpture from the past 20 years – all connected by Garretti’s distinct language of color and mark-making. While imaginative, the works are also expressions of reality, mirroring aspects such as art, commodity and family – as Garretti assumes the role of an urban and suburban anthropologist. Garretti often begins with a plan and shape for a work, which can be developed through making, and is re formalized closer to his initial idea by introducing materials such as fabrics, wood, and embellishments.
Materiality is a significant aspect of the works in the exhibition as Garretti’s clay structures relate to a wide array of other materials. In Navigator, the transience and delicacy of green chiffon is mimicked by the wash of green glaze on the white ceramic brim of the Navigator’s hat; the curved shape of Zigaboo’s head closely resembles the curves of the woodwork of the nearby figureheads. A cheetah print motif occurs in iterations throughout Bo Bo Big Stuff, and the cheetah’s mouth resembles the curving mouth of the face, which appears almost as an obtrusion but is distinguishable by a long stroke of red identifiable as a tongue.
The most recent works in the show take the form of masks – and are distinguishable as such by caricatured facial features. Yet, in works such as A Conversation With the Dog, I Can’t Swallow That, Bo Bo Big Stuff, and Mr. Don’t Buy or Pay for Anything, features are doubled or dramatized, and because we feel a strange connection to them for our likeness, we feel implicated in their distortion. It is here that the surreal quality of slapstick comedy can be seen as an interest to Garretti, and it is in the cadence achieved by Garretti’s use of line, color and shape that the works find footing with us intimately.
Melvino Garretti (b. 1946, Los Angeles, US) lives and works in Los Angeles. He received an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute; worked at Great Barrington Pottery in Housatonic, Massachusetts, the Studio Watts Workshop in Los Angeles, and with Michael Frimkess of Venice, California. His work has been the subject of exhibitions in California and New York. Garretti had a solo show at the Parker Gallery in early 2021.
Courtesy of the artist and Taymour Grahne Projects, London