Over the past three months, artist Carmen Argote has been making a film about Los Angeles during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a diary of her solitary daily walks through the strange, emptied streets, with the audience hearing her thoughts. (“I try to be invisible when I see someone walking towards me. I perceive them as a threat.”) She captures the eerie, familiar contemporary feeling of isolation. We’re often looking down at the pavement and her shoes as she walks and presumably dodges other pedestrians. “The soles of my shoes can touch the city directly, pick it up, move its particles along with me,” she reflects on her website. “My shoes, that I would remove immediately when entering my home. My shoes, that somehow now carry a feeling of being infected.”
The film, titled “Last Light,” is part of the exhibition Hand Dog Glove, which will also feature drawings that sprung from Argote’s nighttime walks. The show will be installed across three venues in Los Angeles: Commonwealth and Council, Stairwell Gallery, and Clockshop. Due to the pandemic, dates are still being finalized, but in the meantime, you can catch an early online screening of the film, co-presented by Clockshop and the Hammer Museum, on Tuesday, July 21.
Argote is best-known for her sculptural work, which explores home, place, and how architecture constructs these concepts. These are very personal subjects to Argote, an immigrant who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. “Last Light” builds on her past art, pointing to the symbiotic relationship between cities and the people who live in them. “There’s this architecture inside you that’s turning into the architecture you’re in,” she soberly narrates in the film. She captures “this feeling when the city breaks,” and when people break.
On July 22, the day after the Hammer screening, you can also catch Argote talking about how her art practice has evolved during the quarantine with Daniela Lieja Quintanar, the chief curator and director of programming at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE). This will also serve as the launch event for an edition print, titled “BLOAT,” that Argote made especially for LACE. While you’ll have to wait until then to see it, Argote has revealed that she used protein bars “to create oil transfers” on paper. “The oil transfer marks looked like a written language,” she writes, “trying to communicate through the slow seepage of oil and the accumulation of time.”
When: Screening on Tuesday, July 21, 6–8 pm (PDT); talk on Wednesday, July 22, 7 pm (PDT)
Where: Livestream via the Hammer Museum; talk via Zoom