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After Touch, 2021

Installation View at OCHI Gallery, Los Angeles, CA


After Touch offers a suite of new photographs and installation by artist and curator Marcel Pardo Ariza. Conceptualized while sheltering in place in Oakland, CA in 2020 and actualized in the midst of their transition, After Touch features lovingly composed images of Ariza’s transnational and local family, lovers, and dear ones in physical contact after prolonged isolations. They hug and kiss, they lock eyes and hold each other firmly, they play and prepare to play, they nuzzle, pressing or weaving their bodies together—all acts of reunion, pleasure, healing, and testimony.

Ariza photographs their kinship communities against an array of honey-colored, tangerine, terra cotta, or blush backdrops—a palette that emphasizes skin tones and expands skin color into the space beyond the figures. Crops of fleshy curves, hairy creases, and supple bends of unadorned and unclothed bodies assemble like an architecture of bodily contact. Ariza is acutely aware of the precariousness of representation—how it can be and is often used to restrict or control. Ariza creates support for each subject’s self-determination via anonymity through concealed faces, aliases in titles, or most notably by adhering images that feature direct eye contact with the camera-cum-audience directly to the gallery walls—restricting these artwork’s salability and their potential reexhibition.

Those not nude sport select gear—collars, corsets, hats, thongs, and platform shoes. Latex tape, rope, fetish masks, and floggers all create abstract or indirect pathways to touch—traces of a recent touch, a dissociative way to touch oneself, or the glorious anticipation of a touch to come. Since the lockdown, the meaning and methods of touch have irrevocably shifted and Ariza reifies this moment within the discourse of queerness, trans identity, and BDSM culture. “We couldn’t have imagined a time [pre-pandemic] where touch, or lack of touch, would become an act of solidarity,” says Ariza. The present time is a gift—a chance “to reimagine how we want to live, with whom, and how we can and should take care of each other.”

-Meghan Gordon, Director Ochi Gallery, Los Angeles

Installation View OCHI Gallery, After Touch, 2021
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