“Material Matters” by Edith Abeyta
Feb. 2 to Mar. 9
Irvine Valley College Art Gallery
You walk through darkened glass doors into a dimly lit room that smells like old clothes. There are no racks, just metal wire strung across the room. Instead of the sound of hangers screeching, there's a peaceful silence. You're told you can have some clothes for free, but you have to wait a few weeks. This isn't like any Goodwill you've ever visited–because it's not. It's the Irvine Valley College Art Gallery.
Edith Abeyta's show “Material Matters” opened on February 2, giving everyone a break from the typical student and faculty shows. Abeyta took over the gallery, installing used clothing all across the space.
As with much of Abeyta's installation art, “Material Matters” is immersive. While the room is relatively small for a gallery, it's still utterly impressive when it's filled with great panels of random items of clothing, including several bras and a wedding dress. The detailing on the clothes are exposed, making you want to read the tags, figure out the patterns, and ultimately wonder where all of these clothes came from and where they are going. And that's much of the point.
This show is clearly begs the age-old question when viewing art: What does it all mean? But with Abeyta, what you see is what you get. She says there is no grand meaning behind the show besides what you see right in front of you–it's about “the whole process, from collection to installation to completion to re-distribution,” she says.
Each piece of clothing was donated by someone in the IVC community. The project was overseen by Abeyta, but many volunteers tied the clothes together while sitting around a table amidst donation piles, adding their own narrative to the show's development. This layering of labor is integral to the show. There is a sense of permanence to a large installation, yet focus is directed to the cycles of economy and labor that go into clothing.
Abeyta says that she creates pieces that include community participation to expose the process of preparation and creation. She did a similar exhibition last year called “Long Beach Garment Manifestation.” Her monumental clothing sculptures certainly say something about abundance and consumption. This show shares those implications and reiterates her personal interest in creating art that is neither destructive nor consumptive, and finally gets injected back into the cycle of money and labor (by way of donating the clothes after the show).
These meanings are secondary. Edith Abeyta's work is based in construction and deconstruction, allowing for anything to happen in those times and in between. Rather than being concerned with propagating a specific idea, she wants meaning to be discerned by the show's collaborators and attendees.
Abeyta says she's much more interested in learning what people will think of the show than whether their perceptions match a preconceived message–and people will definitely leave the gallery thinking. To some, it's a messy assembly of old unwanted clothes. To others, it could be a significant statement about want, waste and community values. It can't be denied that much thought went into the creation, purchase, donation, preparation, construction, and future disbursement of these clothes. What it says is up to the community at large. If Abeyta has any intention in her work, it is collaborative interpretation.
“Material Matters” is on display until March 9, after which the clothes will be distributed at the school from March 19 to 21. The gallery is open weekly from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free, parking is $2. Irvine Valley College Art Gallery is located at 5500 Irvine Center Dr., Rm. B-100 Irvine, (949) 559-6934.