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The title of Amalia Pica’s latest exhibition at Marc Foxx, Blow the Whistle, Beat the Drum, puts front and center the entwined concepts of sound and protest that unite the objects on view. As in past works, Pica presents spare installations of recognizable forms that she renders strange through scale, color, and placement, and which she links metaphorically to the body and its political potential.
Opposite a row of pickets displaying party streamers, the most striking work is (un)heard (2016), which covers a gallery wall in an orderly arrangement of noisemakers one might use in demonstrations. Once able to raise a ruckus, these whistles, pans, and jerry cans are covered in white plaster, their visual-aural impact muted and aestheticized. Pica performs a related operation with a series of floor sculptures in the shape of giant hearing aids. Rendering these light, inconspicuous objects in marble and granite, she neutralizes their intended function. By frustrating these sonic tools, the artist raises a timely question: at a moment when social media and never-ending news cycles privilege the loudest voices, does silence constitute the most powerful form of protest?
Pica’s political message remains ambivalent; without context, these works could be understood merely as appealing objects. Nevertheless, the absurdity of Pica’s translations of form and function encourage viewers to seek that context and maintain skepticism as to what they are witnessing. Nearby, the drawings comprising Joy in Paperwork (2016) take international bureaucratic stamps (“Cancelado,” “Paid,” etc.) and turn them into playful patterns and compositions. More than pretty pictures, Pica’s designs elicit somber reflections upon the global immigration and refugee crises, and the life-or-death exclusions such marks can entail. Their repeating, often disintegrating, text emphasizes the need to read between the lines and attend to the invisible bodies and muted voices they implicate.
Amalia Pica: Blow the Whistle, Beat the Drum runs October 22–November 26, 2016 at Marc Foxx (6150 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048)