The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco will present an exhibition of videos and drawings by Ellen Cantor (1961–2013). A prolific artist who lived in both New York and London, Cantor combined ready-made materials with diaristic notes and drawings to probe her perceptions and experiences of personal desire and institutional violence. In her drawings, paintings, collages, and videos, Cantor lifted characters and sequences from iconic films, reorienting the ideological transmissions of the source material. Fictional figures from Disney cartoons, cult horror films, New Wave cinema, and family movies provide a visual foil to Cantor’s intimate disclosures. Magnetized by the doleful naivety of characters such as Snow White and Bambi, Cantor would, in her drawings, extend their narrative horizons to include graphic sexual encounters and crisis-ridden relationships.
For the final eight years of her life, Cantor was working on the feature-length film Pinochet Porn. Originally a suite of drawings named Circus Lives from Hell (2005), Pinochet Porn is an episodic narrative about five children growing up under the regime of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Featuring a cast of close friends and collaborators, and shot in New York and London, Pinochet Porn stages a libidinal critique of the systematic and sadistic destruction of self-expression and experience.
Alongside this exhibition, The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco will also present an installation of new work by Carissa Rodriguez (b. 1970, New York). Rodriguez is a Capp Street artist-in-residence, and the exhibition marks the end of a three-month residency in San Francisco.
As an artist based in New York City and temporary guest on the West Coast, Rodriguez follows a personal line of inquiry into everyday life in the Bay Area as it is purportedly being reorganized around the interests of technology industries and their constituents. Confronted by this distinct contemporary habitus—its lifestyles, tastes, and values—Rodriguez has produced a body of photographic work in which relationships between images raise questions about the construction of the “creative life” as it plays out publicly and privately.
Rodriguez’s work is often context-specific and not driven by any defining material in its aim to assume the role of medium itself, or “the corollary opposite of the signature object,” as she puts it. Through a series of displacements between image, site, and context, the exhibition takes specific design proposals into account in order to ask, What makes life succulent?