Los Angeles-based artist Carmen Argote’s work is deeply personal—drawing from her surroundings, she finds materials like coffee, cochineal dye or locally sourced produce that she incorporates into sculpture, performance and installation works that relate to both her past and present. Yet, these intimate investigations of her own experiences conjure something undoubtedly universal that invites viewers to reflect on their own memories of home.
Argote’s career has gained significant momentum in recent years. In 2018 she was featured in the Hammer Museum’s biennial “Made in L.A.” She was also a recipient of the 2019 Artadia Award for artists based in Los Angeles, alongside Diedrick Brackens and Ron Athey. The artist currently has work at the Sculpture Center’s group show “Searching the Sky for Rain” and a solo exhibition in Istanbul with the Ballon Rouge Collective, a nomadic gallery putting up shows in major cities across the world.
All of this leads up to a new exhibition at the New Museum set to open on September 24. Titled “As Above, So Below,” this will be Argote’s first ever solo museum presentation.
Hailing from Guadalajara, the artist immigrated to Los Angeles as a child, a dual experience that has led her to delve into the conflicting notions of home. Location, architecture and landscape are also a significant part of her practice. Her installations directly intervene with and respond to a site, bringing into question the psychological impact a space can have, the memories and feelings it invokes, how we relate to it, and how it affects the way we see ourselves and others.
The upcoming exhibition at the New Museum will feature site-specific work with the artist’s signature lived-in feel. Her new sculptural installation and large scale paintings incorporate fruit, plants, and other natural materials that she collected from recent residencies in Guadalajara—one of which was at the former home of the renowned Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco.
Argote’s ability to evoke a sense of place that feels at once both specific and very relatable is what is most commented on wherever the artist’s work travels. Erin Christovale, associate curator at the Hammer Museum who was on the panel that awarded Argote her Artadia grant, recently commented that it’s Argote’s sculptures and installations that she’s feels “hold the most profound notions of ‘home.” With this in mind, perhaps when “As Above, So Below” opens at the New Museum, an institution so renowned for presenting everything and anything on the cutting edge, Argote’s work might represent a slight change from the norm: new to those who have never seen her work before, yes, but also somehow harkening back—familiar.