For the last few years, artist Oscar Tuazon has meandered ever closer to a unique framework in socially-engaged sculpture, and art-making more broadly. Creating sites and objects dedicated towards folds and fissures in public space, his pieces have delved into the act of living; how bodies animate space, or ultimately serve to preserve or reify distinct functions and/or patterns of use within a defined space. For his first exhibition at New York’s Luhring Augustine this month, Tuazon brings this unique philosophy to bear in the gallery, erecting a series of works that draw on past projects and seek to explore functionality in new spheres.
One of Tuazon’s most ambitious projects is an architectural installation entitled Zome Alloy, a hollowed wooden structure consisting of eleven traversable polyhedral units, or zomes. The installation is modeled after the “Zome Home,” a solar powered house in Albuquerque, New Mexico created by designers Steve and Holly Baer. One of the defining features of the Baers’ home is a double-paned glass wall that utilizes water as a heating and cooling mechanism. Though passive and sustainable, the system must be manually operated by the home’s residents, an aspect that circles back to Tuazon’s views on sculpture and the way inhabitation actively maintains it.
These spaces have popped up around the U.S., structures that have ultimately become part of the groups and agents that used them. In two situations, the Zomes have become “Water Schools,” sites for political activism and protest over the use and exploitation of water sources in both California and Minnesota. Here, Tuazon has installed a series of objects and items from these schools, showcasing the objects in the subdued environment of the gallery space. What shines forth as a result are the subtle human touches and elaborations on these items. Designed to accommodate the unique structure of the Zome, these are objects reshaped by their deployment in the world, and in turn, bear the marks and embellishments of used objects. A narrow cabinet, for instance, bears a text reading “You are on NDN Land,” using the Los Angeles Dodgers logo in the word “Land.” These playful iterations on objects already manipulated for nomadic portability plays on the functionality and creativity of modern political action, spaces where the human spirit deploys itself both against the consolidation of power and resources while still finding space for other playful subversions.
For Tuazon, this work seems to speak to a multitude of forces working upwards against entrenched power structures, a transition towards modes of living and of social practice that underscore new ways of occupying space and of emphasizing this same space’s broader historical contexts. Allowing history to unfold through lived experience, Tuazon seems to ask how society can move forward, especially when that history is writ in the space we inhabit.
The show is on view through June 16th.
— D. Creahan
Oscar Tuazon at Luhring Augustine [Exhibition Site]