Museum Musings: Exhibition Throwback is where SMoCA staff members reflect on memorable exhibitions from SMoCA’s past, share stories about working with artists, and why a particular exhibition continues to stick with them.
Double Agents: Carla Fernández and Pedro Reyes
Oct. 27, 2018 – Feb. 3, 2019
Shipping guns from Mexico and importing suitcases of dried plants were two of the hurdles we faced when preparing to install Double Agents: Carla Fernández and Pedro Reyes in 2018. Of course, the guns were musical instruments and two talented florists’ hand-carried the plants, but these are some of the things that keep museum staff up at night during exhibition installations! And yet, it was all worth it, as Double Agents: Carla Fernández and Pedro Reyes was one of the most rewarding exhibitions I’ve worked on at SMoCA. Firstly and simply because Carla and Pedro agreed to participate! As busy artists I know they cannot commit to every project that comes their way. Additionally, I invited them to collaborate on an exhibition, which they had never officially done before. As life partners they certainly work together all the time, but never in the capacity of a shared exhibition.
What captivates me most about these two is their individually strong artistic visions that are steeped in their belief that art can change the world. When I started working at SMoCA in 2016 they were on my short list of artists to contact. I had worked with Carla for an exhibition when I was Director of the Museum of Craft and Folk Art (San Francisco) in 2008 and had stayed in touch over the years. I made a couple visits to Mexico City while working on the exhibition and the most memorable time was sitting around their beautiful home on a rainy summer evening, pulling books from their enormous library and discussing ideas for hours.
As a curator I seek to support artists in the creation of new work and to provide the resources to explore new ideas. In Pedro’s case, we showed his beautifully haunting sculptural work Disarm, which is made from remnants of guns. He also introduced a web-based app that encouraged participants to look toward a future without guns by making changes to the Second Amendment. And for Carla, we showed her most recent line of clothing. She was also able to explore new ways of collaborating with a series of photographs by Maruch Sántis and with striking sculptural headpieces adorning all the mannequins by Flores Cosmos. Together Carla and Pedro worked on a map of the Americas composed of the names of Indigenous groups instead of current day national borders. The unifying visual effect is a powerful reminder of our shared strengths and histories. In the end, their practices and their commitment to the field highlight the very best of art that delivers hope amidst the challenges and never gives up.