Derek Toomes: Perdido en la traducción

Exhibition Images

Oct 4, 2013 - Oct 30, 2013

Derek Toomes's exhibition Perdido en la traducción produces a body of work that examines the ambiguity, disjointedness, and separation that can characterize interactions between cultures and generations. “Perdido en la traducción” (“Lost in translation”) also describes the collision of text, found imagery, and geometric forms that occurs within Toomes's current practice. When disparate elements with different associations merge within his formal compositions, they frequently shed their individual significance and shift according to the perceived contexts provided by their surroundings.

The found images within the pieces are not simply duplicates of their source materials; for each, Toomes has hand-rendered and re-worked it for his own purposes. In such a manner, the artist creates a separation from the original figure. By doing so, he has already shed a stratum of its initial definition. Just as an individual brings his own worldview to bear on any interpretation of an idea, Toomes has subtly reappropriated the images as his own. He then goes on to further splinter, crop, and obfuscate those images through his monochromatic mark-making and colorful geometric forms.

In such a style, typically utilizing an array of figures and scenes dating from 1958 to 1978 – years which he himself did not experience – Toomes pairs them with phrases and thus loads them with relationships whose significance is uncertain. So many years have passed since some of these iconic personages and historical snapshots have been offered to the popular eye, that the viewer is left to consider if one must view them for what they were, or what their legacy has been. For example, when Toomes suspends “Inocencia” above a fragmented profile of Jayne Mansfield, it is a wry critique of the blonde bombshell, a sympathetic remembrance for her early, violent end, or a comparative assessment of her rumored promiscuity against the hyper-sexualized media personalities of today? Of course, this dynamic is predicated on the ability to identify the original imagery.

While Toomes ably illustrates that past images inevitably devolve substantially from generation to generation (often decaying from popular references to historical tidbits to scenes lost in obscurity), his pairing of Spanish phrases serves a phenomenological purpose in engaging unilingual English-speaking viewers. When unable to intuit an immediate translation, a viewer has an even greater challenge in identifying the possible relationships between text and images. Resultingly, one realizes that the thing lost in translation is not always just comprehension; it can be significance, relevance, and even identity.

Lauren Turner
October 2013

 

On View in the Front Gallery:  Andrea Myers

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