Alone plastic shopping bag, plucked by the breeze, floats gracefully down the street. It is the “muse” of Lucia Hierro, who, although foremost an academic, is also a conceptual artist—a driver of dialogue. Her work does not serve light snacks. It divulges the dark twists of labor and production; the juxtapositions and contradictions of late capitalism.
In developing her latest museum show, Hierro didn’t play it safe—she tried something risky and monumental. In the meantime, she also successfully fucked up the search-term algorithm for postmodern masters of installation art. Subtle references to other artists’ concepts are less revealing than her broader mission to educate by dominating space and leveling up with each of her singular, complex and curious creations.
Kristin Farr: What’s been going on this year?
Lucia Hierro: I did some work for David Klein Gallery in Detroit, and an install for Museo del Barrio’s Triennale, and they both opened the same day last spring.
I was at the Red Bull artist residency in Detroit for three months, and I had friends who introduced me to Detroit in this really beautiful way, and I have a really deep connection to the city. The show at David Klein was the first time some people had seen my kind of work in a gallery; this strange, digital mural-looking thing with sculptures. They had a lot of foot traffic, which was odd, given covid. A lot more people were stepping into the gallery who didn’t feel comfortable doing so before. My big green wall in the back of the gallery drew people in.
Then I had this Museo del Barrio opening, and it’s a really interesting thing to hear people say they’ve never been there, and that the articles surrounding the show have this level of condescension, like they’re patting us on the heads, “Look at the cute Latinos having a little show.” A lot of the artists have been working in obscurity for decades, along with younger artists, and when you have been working that way for so long, you’re not making work that is easily reduced to a headline. I thought the Trienialle was doomed to be seen as something it wasn’t, and Museo del Barrio’s been working so hard to revamp that image. I think they finally scratched the surface of doing the work they were supposed to be doing all these years. So, in that way, that show is an incredible teaching tool.
It’s been interesting to see how the work lives in these different contexts, and now I’m working on my show for the Aldrich Museum; I’m in the throes of finalizing all the little details. Everything is being delivered right now, so I’ve been losing sleep over that! It’s been interesting to work on all these things at once.
And for different audiences. Tell me about The Gates.
The exhibition is called Marginal Costs, and I’m making a new series of sculptures called The Gates. It does draw a tiny connection to Jeanne-Claude and Christo because they did their Gates project in Central Park, all across the city. The debate about it, at the time, was really interesting. They spent so much time working with the city; and, in the documentary, they almost glossed over the conversations of how far into Central Park their Gates should go. And Christo and Jeanne-Claude would say, “What do you mean? The whole park. Everywhere.” And other people would say, “Are you sure? There’s an area where they might not work…” It was the coded language of saying—”I don’t know if you want to put your Gates in El Barrio.”
I remember being in high school, telling a friend I’d love to walk all the way to downtown through the park to see them, and we did this really beautiful tour. I had been wanting to work on my own Gates for years. It was two ex-boyfriends ago when I had the idea, so I reached out to one of them, like, “Hey, remember The Gates? I’m finally making them!”
They’re basically just wrought-iron gates you’d see outside someone’s home. They’re based on photos that I took in the neighborhood, but they’re actually made out of iron and three times the size. They’re seven or eight feet tall. I went to my uncle, who owns a gate business in New Jersey, and decided his company would be the fabricator. At first he said, “No. I’m not doing this.”
He didn’t understand it and when I told him the museum was in Connecticut, he said he couldn’t make gates outside the state of New Jersey because of insurance purposes and liability. I didn’t have the heart to tell the museum he said no, so I kept it to myself and thought I would convince him.
I remember Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Umbrellas in California when I was a kid. The Gates were like an East Coast counterpart, a decade later, so the regional context is notable.
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