Art in the Age of Pandemic
by Evlyne Laurin, as published by the Journal del Pacifico October 22, 2020
The past few months have been going against the grain of our normal existence. Life reverted to basic routines; baking sourdough, absorbing digital feeds. The world shook. It paused. Then, most of everything that was moving went online. A large share of our interactions is, now, mitigated through a screen, except for the mercado check-out person and the occasional human walking a dog. The art world has followed a similar path. Art fairs happen through virtual rooms, museums interact on Instagram live, and galleries exhibit through Facebook. Life as we knew it could nostalgically be referred to as a bygone era. Our time, the right now, the new normal - is certainly not business as usual.
Painting on left: Sweet Oblivion by Mark Gabriel. Painting top right Native Assad + Wickham, and Bottom Right: The Seagull detail by Mark Gabriel
Still, now more than ever, human presence is needed. Physical experiences are more important than ever. In the town of Todos Santos, small business owners know this. Brick and mortar galleries have been making moves to reopen, hoping for a healthy showing this season. The partners behind Galeria Militar make a strong argument for it. Jessie Wallace and Mark Gabriel are preparing for the desire to see art face to face (even if masked and 2 meters apart). Galeria Militar, which has been part of the Todos Santos art landscape for a little while, is undergoing fundamental changes; both physically and conceptually. For this couple, who moved to Todos Santos 4 years ago, the pandemic has inspired the expansion of their small Gallery. This furthers their commitment to the Todos Santos community, which they hope, will become central to the art ecosystem.
As Jessie explains: 'What motivates us are the people around us, our neighbours, fellow artists and galleries. Reshaping the vision of Galeria Militar is about making a deeper contribution to the vibrant contemporary art community and being a positive presence in the ever-evolving Todos Santos art scene.'
Part of that reshaping is tearing up the floors and walls to better showcase the art. With rethinking the Gallery, they expect to reach out to more artists from across the Baja peninsula and the nation, expanding on the local flavour of contemporary art.
The re-launch will kick off a season of new art beginning November 12 with Mark Gabriel solo exhibit. A group Holiday show in December, plans to feature artists from around Mexico. Then, it will be time for Christa Assad & Kevin Wickham to take over the Gallery in January 2021, with Quien Calla, Otorga | Silence Means Consent, a show celebrating women of México - past and present - whose strength inspires the next generation of women to find their voices and use their minds for impactful changes.
Still, an art opening in the age of a global pandemic looks much different than those of yesteryear. The Gallery is planning to explore two components of opening; one face-to-face and one online. There will be no over-crowding - masked gallery-goers will be required to enjoy sanitation stations, but the conversation and drinks will still be flowing. Simultaneously, for those who can't make it physically, a virtual presence will bring you there. What they have planned for the re-launch couldn't be timelier.
The inaugural show of the revamped Galeria is titled Bye Gone Days, which showcases a new series by Mark Gabriel, featuring socialites of the tropical jet-set. Inspired by works he made in the early days of 2020, especially Sweet Oblivion, Gabriel never thought they would acquire an additional layer of meaning due to the global pandemic.
"More than just a peek through the Vaseline lens of history, the compositions are balancing out the times we live in, versus the times we think we remember. The hair, the clothing, the faces without masks are nostalgia, reminders of times that are no longer. In times of massive change, like we're living through now, it can feel like our bygone days are already here.
It is the celebration of bygone days that adds to Jessie and Mark's sense of adventure. A lyrical, perhaps subversive optimism that everything will find a new flow that will be for the greater good even in the direst circumstances. Expanding a gallery these days might be viewed as folly, but there is the undeniable fact of a continuous narrative. The show must go on.
The physical & online gallery goes live on November 12, 2020. All are invited to the re-opening of Gallery Militar in Todos Santos. Please visit www.galeriamilitar.com to RSVP. Places limited.
Cover image by Kate Turning