Debuting at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA for the 2014 Los Angeles Art Book Fair, MOIS is a new SSK Press project that will incorporate images from the artist's travels, with previously unseen bodies of work from Fukushima, Tokyo, Querétaro, Mexico City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Phnom Penh, Morocco, Spain and Oahu among others. One new publication will be created at the finish of each major trip and released here at SSK Press, along with a unique special edition copy to come later that will include an artifact from whatever city the publication is set in.
The newest title in the series, sea, was created over a one-week period in 2013 in Mexico City, Querétaro, and Culiacán, with the majority of the images being created in Mexico City.
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s e a / s í | s e e \ s e a
I grew up on the border in San Ysidro, yet I had never been to Mexico City. For me, it quickly became a place of longing, a city I would dream about and ruminate over through snippets of articles I’d read or through stories from strangers I came across who had been there. All I ever knew about it as a kid was that it was one of the largest cities in the world and I can vaguely remember reading an article about how birds used to drop from the sky - dead - suffocating from the city’s pollution. It seemed like an otherworldly war zone, and through an increasingly accumulated knowledge of the place and a realization of its depth as a cultural center, my longing to visit the city grew stronger. - Fast forward a couple decades and I’m on a plane slowly descending through clouds with the vast expanse that is Mexico City sprawled out in front of me beyond a window. Through turbulence I can see buildings of all sort and color, streaming on and on- the vantage point from afar giving me a vanishing point that destroys any other.
Throughout my trip, whether by accident or through negligence, all my cameras broke except for a small, focus-less, single aperture half-frame camera I had brought with me. Not caring about what kind of pen I was using, I started to write down whatever images I could through whatever means I had. Then, a couple days before I was to leave, a large explosion occurred in the city at the Pemex Executive Tower. From the window of the room I was staying in strands of smoke could be seen billowing up and out into the distance along with tall tufts of black and orange flames visible from miles away. After an investigation, it was found that the cause of the blast was a gas leak ignited by an electrical fault. The next few days of my time in the city I wandered around, taking pictures up and down the alleys and streets, getting lost in mercados and city squares all around me. When I returned to my studio in Los Angeles I started exploring ways to incorporate the time I spent there into a project and all I could see was the fire.
Through a series of experimental processes I came up with a crude system of techniques to use while developing my negatives involving excessive agitation, boiling water, and intentional sun & fluorescent exposure. The result, along with the smaller half-frame negative I was forced to use, gives the grain and silver in the image an extra nuance when enlarged, texturally mimicking both ash and sandpaper- as if the images were brushed with steel wool. This development process, coupled with the fragments of charcoal dusted on every page and the melted mylar cover, hopefully lends this book the feeling I felt during my final few days in the city- where walking down each block felt like sifting or swimming through the remnants and wreckage of an anonymous sea of fire. Every day since I left I've thought about Mexico City, a place that, for me, will always house and hold a certain kind of quality for me- it is a magical city, one whose reality can feel all at once like a dream whose fabric and flame is constantly billowing and moving around you in a dance you can't help but get swept up in.
sea is made up entirely of images created with a half-frame camera during a one-week trip in Mexico from January 26th, 2013 - February 2nd, 2013 and is now available in an edition of 50 below.