Burning in Water is pleased to present Borinquen Gallo: Like a Jungle Orchid for a Lovestruck Bee. The exhibition will feature a series of sculptures and a largescale, immersive installation fashioned from intricately reconstituted street materials such as yellow and red “caution” tape, blue construction tarps, garbage bags, discarded hub-caps and debris netting. The exhibition, which is the inaugural solo gallery show of the artist’s work in New York, will be on view through November 18.
Devoid of overt figurative elements, Gallo’s sculptures nevertheless embody intensely personal and autobiographic qualities. Born in Rome from an Italian father and a Puerto Rican mother, Gallo subsequently spent her formative years living in the Bronx, where she continues to reside and maintains her studio. Despite their genesis in humble, disposable materials, Gallo’s totemic sculptures entail soaring, flourishing gestures reminiscent of the classical art and architectural influences to which she was broadly exposed as a child. The works also entail a sense of meditative contemplation and a yearning toward transcendence that reflect the artist’s early, prolonged exposure to premodern Italian art.
By contrast, the materials that Gallo employs serve as fragmentary physical embodiments of her external environment in the Bronx - a locale to which she feels profoundly connected. Elements such as the caution tape used to cordon off degenerated buildings or crime scenes evoke the troubled history of the area, while other materials such as the tarps of blue plastic that are ubiquitous among construction sites in the area allude to its ongoing social and physical transformation. By closely integrating physical elements from physical and social settings of her life with self-referential thematic concerns, Gallo’s work serves to collapse distinctions between personal memory and identity and external physical and social settings - thereby reframing her work as a distinctive integration of individual and communal elements.
Gallo’s methods also reflect a coalescence between such realms. The majority of her artworks involve extensive weaving, of which she performs by hand. Each of these works require weeks or months of personal labor. Gallo describes the weaving process as both a repetitive and deeply meditative: a sort of physical mantra. She characterizes her approach to such work as “quasi-hypnotic.” She considers a sense of temporal disruption as a fundamental element of both her process and the resulting object. While weaving, she often subjectively experiences a sense of time slowing. The physical act of hand-weaving entails an anachronistic approach to process that strives toward the archetypal. The use of mass-produced and highly-disposable materials binds the work to a contemporary timeframe, even while her methods serve to strain and attenuate these connections. The resulting works, with their tension between the ephemeral and the superannuated, yield a similarly asynchronous state for the viewer.
Although the vast majority of Gallo’s labor is painstakingly wrought by her own hand, at other points she abruptly modulates her production methods towards the collective by utilizing students or community members to participate in the aggregation of discrete elements into large-scale or installation works. Gallo consciously considers her process at such points as shifting to a collective endeavor with “social connotations,” whereby the production is transformed into a “visual metaphor for community.”
By deliberately restricting herself to the use of disposable materials intrinsic to urban settings, Gallo elaborates complex tensions between the ephemeral and the enduring; the disposable and the sacred; creation and decay. Although the ubiquity of plastic and industrial materials in Gallo’s work inevitably raises issues related to consumerism and environmentalism, she aims for a radical shift in perspective rather than didacticism or over-simplification. Across a broad range of considerations — material, formal, psychologically intimate and social — Gallo aims “to modulate between the familiar and the surprising” so as to “fundamentally disrupt viewers’ assumptions regarding what is valuable.”