Grant Nominee Gallery Gala Porras-Kim     Work | Artist Statement & CV | Return to Artist List
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What Is My Work About?

Artist Statement
My work questions how knowledge is acquired, tests the potential of the art object to function as an epistemological tool outside of its traditional, art historical context, and challenges the possibilities and limits of learning about the cultures that surround us. The work can be perceived as both aesthetic and utilitarian, capable of serving as a means for an outsider to access information about an unfamiliar culture.

The works in the first 16 images examine the ultimate and literal signifier of culture, language, particularly its sounds. Specifically, Whistling and Language Transfigurationis an interdisciplinary project involving the translation of a minority language, Zapotec, and the political and linguistic implications of the language’s deterioration. Zapotec, originating in Oaxaca, Mexico, is a tonal language where the content of the words is partly contained within the intonation of speech. Because meaning can be communicated through tones alone, the words can be emulated by whistling. And while Zapotec is not the only whistled language in the world, it is unique in that it evolved as a strategy of resistance against Spanish colonizers. By communicating through whistling, the indigenous population disguised their conversations as musical diversions. Zapotec is now an endangered language which until recently was transmitted through an oral tradition, without written records. The works in WaLT include a vinyl record edition of a translation of Zapotec into whistling, as well as the tools made for its background research. They represent an effort to maintain the viability of the Zapotec language by pointing out its unique qualities, and contribute to the preservation of a language that was and is the cultural heritage of the Zapotec people.

Similarly in the last 4 images, the works in I Want to Prepare to Learn Something I Don’t Know, consider strategies that allow an access point into Koreatown in Los Angeles as tools to alleviate the alienation experienced by the lack of access and understanding of language that can obfuscate this landscape. The project started when I asked a long time resident of Koreatown in Los Angeles to show me where his favorite places to eat in the neighborhood were. Driving through the neighborhood and collecting the business cards from the locations that were suggested, created an intimate mapping of his experience there. A narrative was provided for each of the locations, which equipped me not only with the knowledge of good places to eat, but also with a small ethnography of his life.
CV
GALA PORRAS-KIM
Born Bogotá, Colombia, 1984
Lives and works in Los Angeles

EDUCATION
2012 MA, Latin American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
2010 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, ME
2009 MFA, Art, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
2007 BA, Art and Latin American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, CA

SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2012
Proposal for the Rotation of Lewis and Clark, Black Hunger, Boise, ID
Prospecting Notes About Sounds, 18th Street Art Center, Santa Monica, CA
Whistling and Language Transfiguration, Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles, CA
2010
I Want to Prepare to Learn Something I Don’t Know, Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles, CA
F for Overdue, FOXRIVER, Singapore, Singapore
Adaptations, Dobaebacsa HQ/DaiShengFanDian, Seoul, Korea

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2012
Make Hay, David Petersen Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
Un-Entitled Certificate with Unofficial Seal in Kaucyila Brooke's Do You Want me to Draw You a Diagram?, Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany
2011
After the Gold Rush, Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Suelto, La Central, Bogotá, Colombia
DCCS, Yogiga Gallery, Seoul, Korea
Collective Show, Los Angeles, CA
2010
I Have a Light, S1F Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
SK10NY, Tompkins Projects, New York, NY
SK10, Skowhegan, ME
Tumbleweeds and other Histories, Fivethirtythree, Los Angeles, CA
2009
GLAMFA, Long Beach State University, CA
Why Video, REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA
Why Theory, Spring Arts Tower, Los Angeles, CA
Action-Reflection-Action, Outpost for Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
I Am A Citizen, Imprenta, Los Angeles, CA
2008
City of Torrance Exhibition, Torrance Museum of Art, Torrance, CA
Conventions and Attitudes, Remy's on Temple, Los Angeles, CA;
The Amie and Tony James Gallery, New York, NY; Habeas Lounge, CUNY, New York, NY

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Peters, Sarah, “Viewfinder: Make Hay and the David Petersen Gallery” in Walker Art Center Blog. 10/23/12
Schnadt, Sara, and Pilar Tompkins Rivas, "Interview". in LatinArt.com. 07/01/12
Schnadt, Sara, and Pilar Tompkins Rivas, “Sounds in Oaxacalifornia: Gala Porras-Kim Investigates Indigenous Tones” in KCET Artbound. 07/31/12
Tuck, Geoff, “Gala Porras-Kim: Whistling and Language Transfiguration” in Notes on Looking. 04/10/12
Ingram, Davida, “We spoke English in Koreatown and listened to Zapotec” 04/05/12
Tuck, Geoff. “10-11-10 end of the day” in Notes on Looking
Bennett, Sarah. “They Who Smelt it.” in The District Weekly, September 2-8, 2009; p.8.
Moore, Bryan Allen. “The Reverie of Evaluation.” GLAMFA Exhibition (catalogue), 08/09, pp. 20-23.

PUBLICATIONS
Whistling and Language Transfiguration, CLOSER, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions Blog. February 22, 2012
Proposal for the rotation of the Lewis and Clark statue at Kaw Point, PUBLIC FICTION 2: The Gold Rush / Manifest Destiny Issue. 2012.

LECTURES
2013 Artist Lecture, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
2012 Visiting Artist Lecture Series, Department of Aesthetics and Politics, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
2011 Artist Lecture, Otis School of Art and Design, Los Angeles, CA
2010 Artist Lecture, Dobaebacsa HQ/DaiShengFanDian, Seoul, Korea

AWARDS
2012 Departmental honors, UCLA Latin American Studies
2009 Diversity Grant California Institute of the Arts
2007 Hans G. & Thordis W. Burkhardt award, UCLA
Whistling and Language Transfiguration, 2012 installation view
LP album, cyanotype print, record player
Whistling and Language Transfiguration, 2012
LP album, cyanotype print
Edition of 100 unique records
12” x 12”

Listen at: closerlosangeles.tumblr.com/tagged/whistling
For Learning Zapotec Verbs (All the verbs in Zapotec from San Luc Quavini organized by tone high to low), 2012
Wood, pencil, paper, wire, found rocks
50” x 37.5” x 2.5”
For Learning Zapotec Verbs (All the verbs in Zapotec from San Luc Quavini organized by tone high to low), 2012 detail
Cheat Sheet 1-3 (All the words in the Zapotec dictionary), 2012
Wood, note card, ink
3” x 7” each
Cheat Sheet (All the words in the Zapotec dictionary), 2012 detail
Box for Sentence Structure, 2012
Wood, highlighter, marker
4.25” x 10” x 4.25”
WaLT Score, 2012
Wood, paper, ink
19.5” x 13.5” x 2.5”
Notes after G. M. Cowan 1-10, 2012
Graphite on paper, post it, wood
dim. Variable
Notes after G. M. Cowan 1, 2012
Graphite on paper, post it, wood
11" x 9"
Mapping Tones (all the documented Zapotec dialects in Oaxaca), 2012
Graphite, ink, tape, pins, post it, paper, wood
30” x 40”
Mapping Tones (all the documented Zapotec dialects in Oaxaca), 2012 detail
Score for a Ritual Healing, 2012
Wood, mirror, wax, plastic, paper
26" x 17"
Sequence for a Landscape Revival: So So, 2012
Wood, string, stones, sound wave, audio
26" x 17"
Towards Huautla, OX, 2012
Wood, stones, fabric, mirror, google maps video
15:25 loop
17" x 26"
Towards Huautla, OX, 2012 detail still
Q’s -Proposal for a Sign Addition to Q’s Nightclub, 2010
Lightjet print, graphite on paper
30” x 42”
I Want to Prepare to Learn Something I Don’t Know, 2010
Cyanotype diptych
42” x 26” each
Remembering Places by the Shape of their Billboard (1. Vermont and 9th 2.Vermont by Olympic), 2010
Lightjet print
20” x 14” each
Remembering Places by the Shape of their Billboard (1. Vermont and 9th 2.Beverly after Normandie), 2010
Lightjet print
20” x 14” each