At its Doing/Thinking Residency, the relatively new Rogers Park space Wedge Projects invites process-oriented artists to spend five weeks in residence creating new work, culminating in an exhibition. Their most recent resident, José Santiago Perez, used his time in the space to create a range of fun, complex and colorful pieces for the exhibition “Flirting with Infinitudes.” The most prominent works are a series of multilayered weavings made from plastic webs that become the ground on which opaque sheets and bright, sherbet-colored ribbons of more plastic come together creating fragile, seemingly disposable textiles. These tapestries are mounted on the walls and hung from the ceiling along with small woven pots and a variety of sculptures made from the same materials. Using this range of objects made from thermoplastics, Santiago Perez reframes the relationship of plastics to the temporal.
Lined up on a shelf are small hand-cut and folded booklets the artist created to accompany his work. Santiago Perez has provided attendees with phrases and stream-of-consciousness thoughts that wind and flow, in Spanish and English, like the plastic ribbons that are used throughout the exhibit. Unlike most interpretive materials the booklet is not an artist’s statement or a manifesto but reflects the cyclical patterns, loose ends and contradictions of the artwork.
Plastic objects like the kind you find at the dollar store—cheap and readily available— are often regarded as the epitome of the disposable, of the wasteful obsolescence that drives the modern era, but Santiago Perez challenges that perception. The artist is interested in the life cycle of plastics—how these materials were once living things, their current state the result of thousands of years of fossilization and how they will persist in landfills long after their intended usefulness, possibly for thousands more. The longevity of the plastics becomes a metaphor for personal and familial histories that are dependent on elements that go back farther than people often acknowledge and will likely resonate for generations to come. Nostalgic for the easy pleasures of cheap toys, California colors and his desire to assist female family members with craft projects that were denied to boys, Santiago Perez has created pieces that are playful on the outside but formed by deep entanglements and hidden hand labor. In this way, he weaves geological-time, bodily-time, and queer-time throughout the space. (Alisa Swindell)
José Santiago Perez’s “Flirting with Infinitudes” runs through October 5 at Wedge Projects, 1448 West Howard.