With your year long Carla subscription, you will receive a new issue right to your doorstep every 3 months.
Our advertising program is essential to the ecology of our publication. Ad fees go directly to paying writers, which we do according to W.A.G.E. standards.
We are currently printing runs of 6,000 every three months. Our publication is distributed locally through galleries and art related businesses, providing a direct outlet to reaching a specific demographic with art related interests and concerns.
To advertise or for more information on rates, deadlines, and production specifications, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Two bouncy castle-sized, air-filled emoji sculptures—a brass-colored funeral urn and a blue and white Hokusai-inspired wave—bloat Night Gallery’s small outdoor exhibition area. The sheer scale of the sculptures, which together comprise Divya Mehra’s solo show The Funny things You do, and the perpetual work required to keep them “up” is a feat in itself, a comical one-liner that may earn a bewildered chuckle. By contrast, an abundance of text accompanies the installation—both in the title of the work and in a statement written by curator and collaborator Kim Nguyen—filling any void left by the poker-faced emojis.
Mehra’s sculptures are gargantuan, visually alluring in the way that their impossibly digital presence pops and dominates the relatively drab exterior space at Night Gallery (cinder blocks and gravel abound). Their plump contours tower over visitors entering the gallery—or would, were the gallery not appointment-only due to Covid-19 safety concerns. The wave emoji—a wave of death whose cartoonishness doesn’t conceal its implications—in itself an apt summary for the present historical moment.
When deployed in day-to-day communication, an emoji or combination of emojis typically enhances the emotional register of an image, meme, or text message. Yet, here, the towering pictogram the pair composes presents a monolithic blankness, heightened by the dearth of surrounding context.
The convoluted title of the installation (which differs from the exhibition title), here at least we shall be free (build yourself a Taj Mahal for common folks OR a simple set for funniest home video) (2020), carries with it the range of affect otherwise missing from the forms themselves. Nguyen’s curatorial statement is a lengthy, beautiful exegesis on the unknowable and perpetual presence of grief. The statement suggests grief is endemic to life from birth onward, a ceaseless crushing force. But rather than clarifying meaning, Nguyen’s exaltive text pumps even more labor onto the emojis, adding only more air to the inflated objects. The emotional tenor of the statement, ostensibly there to prop the installation up and guide a decryption on the theme of grief, contradicts the levity of the installation, both actual and metaphorical. It would be difficult to imagine landing on grief in the first place, without all the accompanying text to bolster it.
Emojis, and symbols in general, rely on work and usage both to interpret them and maintain their value over time, but their meaning is also emptied continuously, even while they remain in circulation. Particular and nuanced applications lose texture until they slowly flatten into some soft-skinned variant of “good” or “bad,” often contradicting their real world referents. A tidal wave, in reality, might presage imminent natural disaster, but when accompanying a beach selfie, it may perform as an exclamation of a really good time. A funeral urn with the remains of a loved one is a literal embodiment of loss, but blown up to the size of a jet engine and pumped full of air, it reads as something of a conciliatory joke— though the punchline, if there is one, remains unclear.
Divya Mehra: The funny things You do runs from January 16–February 20, 2021 at Night Gallery (2276 E. 16th St., Los Angeles, CA 90021).