Carmen Argote speaks at the Artists on Artists talk at the Hammer Museum. (Omar Rashad / L.A. Times HS Insider)
West Torrance High School

Carmen Argote Explores ‘Artistic Gestures’ in Artists on Artists Talk

“It kind of feeds into you. You process it. You let it out,” artist Carmen Argote said, while lifting her hands inwards before moving them away from her body to begin a circular motion. She brings her hands down and completes one motion. She tries explaining it through words, but words fail her, so she instead uses flowy, tactile movement to talk.

It is in reference to Neha Choksi’s video installation “Everything sunbright” on display in the “Made in LA” 2018 exhibit at the Hammer Museum in Westwood.

As part of their biennial art showcase, the museum organizes Artists on Artists, an event in which “Made in LA” artists explain other artists’ work. In efforts to achieve a wider and broader perspective of the artwork displayed in their exhibit, artists are given full control over how they deliver their presentation.

One part of Neha Choksi’s “Everything sunbright” is entitled “(i) in the womb.” (Omar Rashad / L.A. Times HS Insider)

“When it comes to ‘Made in LA,’ I think it’s an interesting lense to see the biennial through,” said Nancy Lee, Senior Manager of Public Relations at the Hammer Museum. “Not just any artist’s perspective but a fellow biennial artist’s perspective is an entryway for the audience.”

Tasked with going through Choksi’s four-part video installation, Argote recounted the process of talking about the multidisciplinary artist’s work as difficult. Her video installation employs sight and sound, but, as Argote elaborated, those two elements feed into other sensory experiences.

“For me, this idea of multiple perspectives is so key to the work and maybe that’s something that I really try to see,” Argote said. “I know that I make art to see things more clearly like through gestures and I think that’s something that overlaps from me with Neha’s work — just trying to get to different vantage points to be able to see.”

Argote noted how Choksi’s work is a collection of fragments of videos and scenes which build a visceral and tactile experience. She mentioned how Choksi’s work is a result of childhood upbringing as her art is rooted in experiences. At the same time, her work offers the opportunity for art enthusiasts to also connect with their own experiences and relate in their own ways.

“I think where the poetics come from is through that breathing space that she allows for someone taking in her work to kind of live in,” Argote said. “That’s how it kind of constructs itself in my own mind and how I’m able to enter it and sort of move through the work and build meaning.”

Argote went on to explain Choksi’s development following years of art exhibits as she often revises and reinvents previous ideas and works. She noted the process to be nonstop as Choksi’s process constantly grows from piece to piece.

“It’s kind of like a taking in of the germination of an idea, then, moving that idea sort of forward but then it kind of comes back into you,” Argote said. “You process it and then you take that in cumulatively and every time you sort of bring it out for the world to see.”

One of the speakers pipes up next to one of the projections.

“I think we’re on the same page, on the same book, on the same chapter, you got it,” the girl on the screen said. “It’s not always about negativity there’s positivity in everything.”

As the screen speaks life to Choksi’s work, each spectator’s watchfulness indicates a riveted attention fixated on the profound words they hear coming out of a child’s mouth.

The “Made in LA” 2018 exhibit at the Hammer Museum will continue to be on display until early September.