Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle Brings 500 Gallons of Water to Los Angeles | KCET
Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle Brings 500 Gallons of Water to Los Angeles
Ask any Angeleno what the most prevalent problem facing her city is today and you're likely to hear the same answer: the drought. Every time we turn on the tap, flush a toilet, or water the plants we're reminded of the crisis. While the current drought has generated global media interest, viral videos, and even its own hashtag (#droughtshaming), the history of water in L.A. has always been contentious. As author Marc Reisner vividly described it in his book "Cadillac Desert," early political fights over water rights in Southern California were marked by "chicanery, subterfuge... and a strategy of lies."
Water is inextricably linked to the creation myth of Los Angeles. It has long inspired artists, from the vibrant paintings of swimming pools by David Hockney, to the neo-noir of "Chinatown," to the incisive essays of Joan Didion. A new exhibition at the Christopher Grimes Gallery in Santa Monica, "Well 35°58'16" N 106°5'21" W," (the coordinates are the gallery's location) draws on those same mythologies. The artist, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, has been addressing water in his work for nearly two decades.
A native of Madrid who grew up in Bogota and now resides in Chicago, Manglano-Ovalle creates technologically complex sculptures, photographs, and video installations of natural phenomena. He's worked with water in all its forms -- as vapor in clouds, solid in icebergs, and, of course, as a liquid.
The work is typically a metaphor for cultural issues such as immigration and class privilege. The former MacArthur fellow typically collaborates with geologists, climatologists, and engineers to convert data into physical and visual forms. Embedded in the drive to harness nature is the desire to understand the forces (both artificial and natural) that shape our environment. "For me, the climate has been an issue to speak about the broader definition of climate -- the economic, political, and social climates," says Manglano-Ovalle.
For the latest exhibition, Manglano-Ovalle has transported nearly 500 gallons of water from the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico to the gallery. The water comes from an installation of land art that also functions as a well, part of a project the artist did for SITE Sante Fe's biennial last year. The sculpture drilled into the ground to reach the aquifer below, and a hand pump allows spectators to manually withdraw water.
A non-functional well is also installed in the gallery, mirroring the one in New Mexico. Manglano-Ovalle has created seven similar wells around the world including one in Wisconsin and a proposed one in Ramallah. Manglano-Ovalle says the water is a gift, meant to be shared with visitors to the gallery. The "gift" couldn't come at a more auspicious time for Angelenos to explore the intersection of water politics and art.
Locating the piece within the larger context of Manglano-Ovalle's body of work highlights the role of site specificity. The piece asks visitors to take into account geography, history, topography, community and land use. The installation also includes a performative aspect, asking visitors to pump the well in order to receive the water. "When [the piece] moves, it may look exactly the same. The site, the place, and the time opens up a more localized discussion of the issue," explains Manglano-Ovalle. "But it's all the wells together that look outward at issues of water access and water rights as a global issue. In other words, this drought is not owned by California."
Manglano-Ovalle is no stranger to the cryptic and complicated workings of Santa Monica's often-irrational water policies. An earlier proposal for a working "town well" artwork for Tongva Park faced political opposition and had to be scrapped. In its place, he created a sculpture, "Weather Field No. 1," comprised of 49 stainless steel poles arranged in a grid. Each pole supports a weather vane and an anemometer, a device used to measure wind speed.
Manglano-Ovalle's work references the output of a generation of land artists before him. He cites both Robert Barry's "Inert Gas" series and Water de Maria's "Vertical Kilometer" as influences on this exhibition. "I'm indebted to earthworks from the '70s," he says. Not only is Manglano-Ovalle reconsidering the works of the preceding generation but also slyly citing Duchamp's infamous urinal sculpture, "Fountain," which asked viewers to reexamine art as an intellectual exercise rather than a purely aesthetic one.
The work asks viewers to reconsider the reliability of our water access, and the ways modern infrastructure disconnects us from resources. The simple gesture of pumping our own water forces us to bridge that divide. "We take for granted that when we hit a switch the light will turn on. When we turn the tap, water will come out," says Manglano-Ovalle. "But there's something about using a well that makes you think about the source."
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was ordered today to turn himself in no later than Feb. 5 to begin serving a three-year federal prison sentence for obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI.
A proposal to declare a climate emergency in Alaska has brought up long-running tensions over development and conservation among the groups that advocate on behalf of Alaska’s Indigenous people.
State officials quietly gave away a significant portion of Southern California’s water supply to farmers in the Central Valley as part of a deal with the Trump administration in December 2018, potentially harming California salmon and L.A. County.
Sharon Ellis' luminous landscapes draw on nearly the whole history of landscape painting. Think American Luminists, Charles Burchfield and his "animated landscapes" and even Light and Space artists James Turrell and Robert Irwin.
- 1 of 232
- next ›
From the typeface of “The Godfather” book cover to the Noguchi table, the influence of Japanese American artists and designers in postwar American art and design is unparalleled. Learn how the World War II incarceration affected their lives and creations.
"Artbound" looks at the dinnerware of Heath Ceramics and a design that has stood the test of time since the company began in the late 1940’s.
Inspired by Oaxacan traditions, Dia de Los Muertos was brought to L.A. in the '70s as a way to enrich and reclaim Chicano identity. It has since grown in proportions and is celebrated around the world.
Gospel music would not be what it is today if not for the impact left by Los Angeles in the late 60’s and early 70’s, a time defined by political movements across the country.
A behind-the-scenes look at the contemporary art world through the eyes of a legendary art dealer and curator, Jeffrey Deitch.
- 1 of 11
- next ›