Juan Pablo Garza

September 28, 2019 – November 10, 2019
PROXYCO Gallery, 168 Suffolk Street, New York, NY 10002

There’s a reason why some of our earliest memories are of the tchotchkes that populated the homes in which we grew up. As any child who was ever bored knows, the objects that we share our lives with hold a certain power, a kind of potential that can be unlocked if you stop and stare at them hard enough, with sufficient longing and belief. The work of Juan Pablo Garza involves an invitation to relive such acts of projection, to re-engage the pleasures of our most basic animistic impulses.

Garza transforms mute things into things that talk, prying out the bits of information that lie densely packed within even the humblest of knickknacks. These bits of information can be specific or vague, emotional or logical, distinct or generic, deep or shallow, serious or funny, truthful or fictive, far-reaching or constrained. Once he decides that he has caught a good one, Garza combines and recombines it with others to create assemblages that seem, at first, to be arranged according to some kind of taxonomy or organizing principle. We encounter vertical stacks and horizontal arrays, rhythmic pulsations in scale, the push-and-pull compositional dynamics of top and bottom, side by side, center and periphery, bright and dull, living and dead, abstract and figurative—all hinting at hierarchies of value nestled within each grouping like some sort of secret knowledge. 

The promise of easy revelation almost always proves elusive, however. Garza carves out inroads of intuitive, metonymic association, but he leaves it to us to find and follow them. In doing this work, we become more likely to experience flashes of aesthetic satisfaction. More importantly, we are much more likely to remember that we ourselves are little more than the disorganized sum of our own accumulated biases, drives, and memories. 

Garza likens the method by which he acquires his items from thrift stores and hardware outlets to point-and-shoot photography, describing the initial moment at which he identifies their potential not as prep work but as an integral, visceral first step in a process that ends in their transformation. While Garza’s interventions on these found objects are sometimes minimal, in most cases they are more extensive than what the casual viewer might suspect. Sometimes the objects wear their information on their sleeves, but more often than not they require some assistance. The opposite can also be true: The connotations of a given object (e.g., a human femur bone) are often too pronounced, and must be nullified so that it can be forced to conform to a new formal and semiotic paradigm. It must be extinguished as an individual in order to be reimagined as part of an agglomeration. It is through this act of consolidation that Garza introduces additional levels of meaning, opening new points of entry into old problems, from the illusory autonomy of individual artworks in space to the unstable presumptions that pit high art against the decorative, and the unique and handcrafted against the generic and machine-made. 

Garza’s work is about the things we value and the things we don’t, about why we value them and why we don’t. It is about how these values help determine the relationship between the closed unit and the infinitely expandable collective. In this sense, it is ultimately about how we each fit into the larger scheme of things.

René Morales. 2019