Mario Ybarra Jr.
1 May—19 June 2010
Galerie Michael Janssen Berlin
Galerie Michael Janssen is pleased to present a selection of Mario Ybarra Jr.’s recent works. In his rst solo exhibition at the gallery, the American artist will be presenting two installations. Born in Los Angeles in 1973 and a graduate of the University of California, Irvine, Ybarra’s biography is key to understanding his work, which draws attention to forms of culture on the fringe of the mainstream revealing hidden histories within their contexts. His Mexican roots permeate his engagement with the phenomena of contemporary art, street culture and social reality.
Mario Ybarra Jr. was brought up in Wilmington near the Los Angeles harbor, where he still lives and works. At a young age he became familiar with the political actions of the dockworkers and their aesthetic sensibility. He belongs to a new generation of artists of Mexican-American descent, who do not reject their identity and origin against a background of social exclusion but embrace both of the trajectories in their backgrounds. Ybarra appropriates and parodies an American mainstream culture that frequently sees itself as hegemonic by fusing low and highbrow culture into critical and ironic installations.
In 2002, together with artist Karla Diaz, Ybarra founded the art collective Slanguage which operates through multi- disciplinary, non-object-based practices. Focusing on art education, Slanguage has fostered the dialogue about the meaning and value of contemporary art and has cultivated relationships between diverse artists, students, communities and organizations by creating artworks that have ranged from multimedia installations to performances, public events and workshops.
Galerie Michael Janssen is showing two distinctive bodies of works by Mario Ybarra Jr. The installationSilver and Blacks is a series of works on paper with both abstract and gurative works showcasing Ybarra‘s unique calligraphic handwriting. It consists of three parts and features a mural with graf ti-in uenced drawings on cardboard panels titled Shawna, Kimberly and Donna that was partly inspired by a rap track by MC Spew, a series of drawings titled From L.A. to S.A., showing a variety of street scenes with caricature portraits, fantastic comic-like gures and creatures; and a series of more abstract spray-painted drawings called Space Tags. During a two-month residency at Artpace San Antonio in Texas (invited by Jens Hoffmann) Ybarra chose to constrain himself by a self-imposed set of rules, limiting advance planning and producing drawings on paper using only silver, black and white. His drawing tools could only include markers, inks and aerosol paint. After working on several large-scale installations such as Sweeney Tate for the exhibtion The World as a Stage at London’s Tate Modern (2007) where the artist doesn’t necessarily touch every aspect of the work, Silver and Blacks was also an attempt by Ybarra to get back to drawing again. Silver and Blacks also paid a tribute to the early black-and-white lms featuring the Mickey Mouse introduced in 1927 by Walt Disney, one of Ybarra’s heroes.
Against oversized hanging backdrops made from photographs of situations in his studio, Ybarra will sell customized t-shirts, baseball caps and buttons during the exhibition. The project is an ongoing activity at Ybarra’s art collectiveSlanguage studio. Slanguage works hard on growing as an organization. Part of that is the belief that it needs to keep learning new skills and re ning its art practice. It has always had a hands-on approach to creating artwork as well as customized merchandise. With the help of local shops and artisans it has lead and organized workshops for artists and students to create buttons, hats and customized sneakers. During solo exhibtions at Slanguage the shop sells goods developed by the featured artist in order to cover exhibition costs. Following this principle, the articles in the shop installation at the gallery are all designed by Ybarra himself.
Mario Ybarra Jr., Installation view, 2010, Galerie Michael Janssen Berlin