A message from the Underground at Mana Contemporary

Featured Project: with curator Maria De Los Angeles

Ryan Bonilla. Hope, 2004. Encapsulated Digital C Print, 20 in x 30 in.

The group show, A message from the Underground at Mana Contemporary Jersey City, curated by artist and curator Maria De Los Angeles, featuring 18 artists from Mana Contemporary whose work explores current political climate, love, and sense of place. The exhibition runs through 1/15/2022, 3rd floor, Mana Contemporary in Jersey City

What is your curatorial vision for this show and what would you like to share about the featured art?

A Message from the Underground features works by artists exploring Political, emotional and transcendental feelings about society. My students always ask me where an artist’s personal voice and “ style” comes from or how to find one’s own. Art history and the art market have made artistic development into a straight path that looks well calculated and marketable, but it’s complex, personal and less of a straight lined development. The exhibition A Message from the Underground is my response to that question. As an artist and curator, I must confess that personal taste and connection to certain subject matter play a role in my selection of works and crafting of the exhibition. The layout and space to me are always in service of the art and less in trying to make the art fit the restraints of an exhibition narrative.

Greg Pallante, Brianna’s Tattoo, 2016

Through the pandemic we have experienced loss in various ways and I think artists have found refuge in their studios. Perhaps the act of making has always been a refuge from society or a way to reflect our perception of it. Through the Ryan Bonilla’s photographs we find ourselves in NYC, the greatest city in the world, and in its familiar youthful and infinite possibilities, we find hope saturated in his black and white photography. Greg Pallante celebrates the uniqueness of everyday moments and that is especially noticeable in Brinna’s Tattoo. Momma’s Last Passport Issue No.1 by Nick D’Ornellas speaks close to home for us who navigate the solidifying of home not only through the shared experiences which culturally sculpt us to belong, but as well as through the slow immigration process. As we search for the face woven image perfectly morphing into resolution, the pixilation created through the process prevents us from fully realizing the face. The reach for identity that immigrants go through is personified via the content of the passport photo, but also via the process of making. The new kind of digital Impressionism takes us away from the leisure of impressionism to the reality of the USA immigration system.

Nick D’ Ornellas, Momma’s Last Passport Issue No.1, hand woven CMYK screenprint on poly-cotton fabric 31.5 x 31.5 in. 2021

Ma’Dear manifests the long history of the Madonna and child images that are ingrained into our memories and imagination, yet, that idyllic experience of motherhood is not provided by society to every family in the same way. As reproduction rights keep getting attached, we find that it’s not new. Anthony poetically and emotionally expresses that his work shows how women of color are disproportionately impacted through the trauma of “wet nursing” during and after slavery. Their experience shaped how black women today are affected by the percentage of them that aren’t beast feed compared to other races. My contribution to the show as an artist is Citizen Dress, which places the power of the American flag and its meaning in relation to the immigrant experience and the aspiration to belong.

Anthony E. Boone, Ma’Dear, Acrylic, Mixed Media & fabric on Canvas, 60 x 48 x 1.5 in. 2021

Citizen Dress, American Flag, denim, and paint on canvas, 7 x 4 feet, 2018-2021 Photo credit: Ryan Bonilla.Previously on view at Spring Break Art Show

I am intrigued by Ahrong Kim’s porcelain sculptures and especially mesmerized by her piece Lost. Kim brings forth a playful childlike imagery embellished by pattern which takes us to a dream world. The beauty in all the pieces slows down the gaze and allows one to feel and empathize. At least that’s my perception, I am optimistic. Making art is an act of transcendence while the message in the work is a whisper to a collective voice propelling an impetus for a more harmonious world. Thank you to Mana Contemporary, and Kele McComsey for the invitation to put together this exhibition. A message from the Underground is a kaleidoscopic and playful exhibition of voices that celebrate, contemplate and call for a vision of a more equitable future.

Ahrong Kim, Lost/2021, Porcelain, Luster. Photo credit: Ahrong Kim

Maria de Los Angeles is a multidisciplinary artist and curator who addresses ideas of migration, belonging, identity, and belonging through her drawing, painting, printmaking, and wearable art. Her curatorial projects bring visibility to subject matter that reflects her artist community and areas of interest. She holds an MFA in Painting & Printmaking from Yale School of Art (2015), a BFA in Painting from Pratt Institute (2013), and an Associate Degree in Fine Arts from Santa Rosa Junior College (2010). She was awarded the Blair Dickinson Memorial Prize by Yale University (2015) for her artwork and her role in the community. Recent curatorial projects include Spring Break NY 2021, Mana Contemporary 2021, Arts Council of Princeton 2021, Museum of Sonoma County 2019, John Jay College of Criminal Justice 2018, and White Box NY 2017. She participated in a panel discussion on xenophobia and deportation in America at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. Her work and curatorial projects have been featured in Hyperallergic, NY Magazine, HelloGiggles, artsy, and The Observer.

A message from the Underground at Mana Contemporary On view: 11/14/2021-1/15/2022. For a private tour by the curator via my instagram @delosangelesart