Luis G. Hernandez
MAY 5 - JUNE 30, 2015
Proxy Gallery is happy to host the installation Untitled #53 by Luis G. Hernandez. It consists of a vertical book-sized piece of wood with the phrase “IN 2015 THIS INSTITUTION STILL FEELS TOO WHITE” written in white vinyl upper-case letters. The whole rectangle and the letters are painted over with white paint.
The declarative phrase leaves no doubt or ambiguity in its criticism of the prevalent yet invisible—because largely unexamined—institutionalized whiteness of art, cultural and educational institutions.
This invisibility is expressed in the white-on-white writing that becomes more illegible the more it is lit. The beginning of the phrase, “IN 2015,” locates the work temporally, but not spatially. It also reveals an expectation of progress and the disappointment in its absence. “White” here describes the hegemonic and the aspirational, not just the color of persons. “Feels” is another key word that both tempers the declaration and also gives it its crucial intersubjective meaning: the Institution “feels” white (it has feelings) and the artist “feels “ that the institution is too white. With this word the installation transgresses the very conceptual tradition in which it is rooted, to touch on another invisible prohibition, that of “feeling.”
Language does not have a size, but typeface does: It is no accident that Hernandez used the “neutral” modernist Helvetica font and a white-on-white scheme that, in addition to the unconventional word breaks, makes the piece slow to read. The whiteness is blinding. The institution referred to could be the Proxy Gallery, Otis College (where the Gallery is situated and where Hernandez earned his MFA in 2003) or any institution where the work could be placed. In that sense the installation becomes the epitome of the “empty” signifier that is anchored wherever it is located, absorbing rather than emitting meaning. The dream of showing our work in a white gallery here becomes action and also demonstrates its unspoken limits.