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Contemporary Art Archive - Tbilisi

Archive of Academic Writings

2021 Edition of the Project is supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Youth of Georgia

Polyphonic Shadow Cloth


Polyphonic Shadow Cloth series of works by Chicago based artist and musician Lisa Alvarado.

Gallery: LC Queisser

Objects cannot be separated from their histories. Embedding the energetic remnants of the happenings around them, objects have the potential to become vessels for memory and tradition as well as future potentialities.
They are able to simultaneously carry where we’ve been, and where we might want to go. Using this potential, Alvarado creates paintings on cloth which function in tandem with music, either live with the band Natural Information Society, or recorded in installations, to embed the somatic experience of listening into the rhythmic and tactile surfaces of the cloths themselves and yet again into the bodies of the viewer. Through the auditory and visual simultaneity we are pulled into a starkly present physical and synesthetic experience in which we are invited into a space at once personal and collective, a space of sensing the impact that people and objects have on one another.

For this exhibition, Alvarado displays four paintings, or cloths, feather floor works and an ambient sound piece. Moved by the Georgian polyphonic tradition, as well as the dense histories embedded in the Georgian landscape, Alvarado’s visuals, music, and installation together form a polyphonic assemblage. This layering and harmonizing of distinct elements becomes a pattern capable of holding collective memory within a discrete event. The simultaneity of different tones, balanced and harmonized together, creates a heightened sense of the present moment, inviting the viewer into a timeless communion with the artworks and people around them through sensory resonance.

Alvarado embeds her paintings with specific histories, inspired by traditional Mexican textile patterning. She identifies these textile traditions as shadows, part of a lesser seen history that is nonetheless inextricably linked to the possibilities and manifestations of the present. In witnessing a stereotyped and limited cultural imagination around what these textiles can become and how they are relevant to contemporary life, Alvarado integrates this tradition into her own expanded art practice as a way of activating buried potentials. This attention and care towards history becomes another essential layer within the installation, locating this dense sensory experience of the present in a lineage of similar events.

Alvarado’s installation is a careful orchestration, a balancing act of opposites. It is in this deliberate harmonizing that her installations create an environment that elicits a heightened awareness of our present moment and the histories, often obscured or invisible, which shape the conditions of experience today. Objects cannot be separated from their histories. In Alvarado’s work, the objects are not only the paintings, but also the sound, the visitors, and the shared experience in the space, a community of disparate histories, coming together to affect one another and create something new.

Marina Caron