Abraham Cruzvillegas’s “Autoconstrucción Suites” at the Walker Art Center: Giving new life to found objects

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When I began writing for the Twin Cities Daily Planet it never really occurred to me that I could get free access to things. I mean, I knew it was possible, but I wasn’t entirely aware that I could use my status as a member of the press to partake in events that I might not get to see otherwise—and get free breakfast in the process.

There are various exhibitions and events that I never get to participate in because I don’t have access or am unaware that they exist; in regards to the Walker Art Center, I’m not a member there and I don’t have the money to attend their shows on a regular basis. So when I was offered a chance to attend a media preview of Abraham Cruzvillegas’s new exhibition The Autoconstrucción Suites I jumped at the chance. It’s important to take such chances as you never know when someone will pinch you and wake you up.

After breakfast and a brief introduction, Cruzvillegas took us through the exhibit and explained to us his thought process and inspirations for this current body of work, which gave context to what we were seeing. The other writers were dutifully taking notes and snapping photos, and—while I wished I was that dutiful—I’ve never been a good note taker (this explains why I never did well in school).

What I found most interesting was the artist’s idea of animism, that all objects have a life and a spirit and that he was able to give those spirits a physical aura in the form of feathers sprouting from an umbrella or large glistening knives violently protruding from a small wooden table. I felt that he was creating an aesthetic map of his life’s journey in images that the viewer could use to navigate.

Most of the time, whether it is intentional or not, art is an inventory of personal experiences that once you’ve fleshed out into a tangible form you give to the audience to perceive at their own discretion. This fosters a continuation of history, especially when it comes to found objects, as these objects existed before the exhibition and will likely exist well after for others to project further value onto. Cruzvillegas encourages this inference of value because it gives the work a new life, adding an extra layer of meaning that may not have been there otherwise. It starts a new story, and that story can differ from viewer to viewer.

The most exciting moment for me was a relatively subtle one, when Cruzvillegas said, apropos of nothing, that “the life of an artist is very boring,” and there is truth to this. While the day-to-day life of an artist isn’t much different from the lives of everyone else (minus the art-making), it is the inner life of an artist that is far more fascinating and it is that desire to bring that inner life into the outer world—where it is subject to various interpretations—that creates such intrigue. In cases like this, it’s less about creating your own world and more about subverting how the world is seen by portraying it through your own eyes.