Shotgun Reviews

James Cordas: a, dog I’m holding undermy arm with Its head pointed behind me at Et al. Gallery

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Alex Rojas reviews James Cordas: a, dog I’m holding undermy arm with Its head pointed behind me at Et al. Gallery in San Francisco. 

James Cordas. Installation view of

James Cordas. a, dog I’m holding undermy arm with Its head pointed behind me; installation view.

James Cordas’ exhibition a, dog I’m holding undermy arm with Its head pointed behind me transforms Et al. Gallery into an extrasensory space. With the use of poetry, lighting installation, and performance, Cordas addresses the apprehensions of daily existence and volatile occurrences within our culture.

Entering the space, the viewer is physically immersed in Cordas’ poetry through his work 8 poems (2015). Through a custom analog circuit, the show is illuminated in a synthesized language of poetry. The circuit creates a blockade from the flow of electiricty to the fluorescent lights until sound amplitude is present. Cordas describes it as “light coming from a mouth every time someone wants to make a sound.” The light is abrupt and repetitive, so much so that the gallery issued a photosensitive epilepsy warning as part of the press release. Part comical, part serious, this warning and the poetic light installation set the tone for what the viewer will experience.

Full Spectrum Suburban House Fire (2015) is installed at the back wall. Bright rainbow and bubblegum colors draw the viewer into the uncomfortable space. A rainbow image of a two-story home burns ruthlessly. With a mirror as the substrate, the viewer’s reflection becomes one with the burning house, confronting viewers with the uncomfortable fact of their own mortality.

Cordas also uses a mirror in Sharp Park (2015). Cordas presents the idyllic and well-recognized “Bliss” Windows XP background. Overlaying the blue skies and rolling hills are sharp objects and medical supplies. The juxtaposition of relaxing and recognizable imagery with items that evoke anxiety and fear speaks to the volatile, looming occurrences that could happen at any moment in our lives. We are reminded of the instances and situtations that are out of our control, such as illness or disaster. The viewer’s own reflection in the mirror further highlights this anxiety.

Performed on the opening night, Contemplative Cop (8ft. Cop) further fueled anxieties of contemporary existence within a culture of violence. A large actor wearing a police-grade tactical outfit, including a riot shield, baton, and helmet, sat alone on a blood-red tree stump, staring into a mirror for the duration of the opening. While the officer was the main component of this piece, the viewers existed within the piece as well, seeing their own reflections in the mirror. Evoking the recent protests galvanized by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Contemplative Cop was timely and relevant. Cordas’ work demanded that the audience be introspective along with the cop and consider their own role in a society that perpetuates violence. Overall, Cordas successfully creates an experience that addresses the insecurities and fears that intersect with the banalities of human existence, in order to allow for a larger view of reality.

James Cordas: a, dog I’m holding undermy arm with Its head pointed behind me is on view at Et al. Gallery in San Francisco through March 28, 2015.

Alex Rojas is a writer currently based in San Francisco. She is pursuing her BA in Art History/Arts Management and is particularly interested in contemporary art that engages with female identity and gender relations.