Los Extranjeros: Curated by VisArts’ 2024 Mentoring Curator Mehveş Lelic

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Los Extranjeros
Curated by VisArts’ 2024 Mentoring Curator Mehveş Lelic

August 23-October 13, 2024
Kaplan Gallery

Curator’s Statement

Los Extranjeros (The Foreigners) is an immersive solo exhibition by Baltimore-based artist, illustrator, and designer TLaloC. The multi-sensory exhibition, which features interwoven sights, sounds, and scents, centers around the perceptions, sentiments, and resulting interactions with what the viewer might categorize as foreign, and takes a winding, adventurous road towards revealing that our most basic understanding of the relationship between a person and a place in fact mirrors our own view of the world.

Using stereotypically dystopian elements such as industrial waste and transforming VisArts’ Kaplan Gallery into an Borgesian labyrinth that shifts the viewer’s gears into trying to navigate an eerie space, TLaloC seeks to explore visual and perceptual discomfort that seeks to echo the deepest insecurities a foreigner might feel in a new place and harkens to a sociopolitical reality many immigrants, especially of the global majority, might feel daily.

The interpretation of the word “alien,” which the United States government uses to describe non-citizens, is central to the exhibition: humanoid figures wearing bespoke headdresses and removed from the visitor’s path via chain-link fence, highlight the divisive nature of the word.

However, in the world that TLaloC creates, there are silver linings: through the fog, over the fences, and in the fauna in the gallery is a quiet welcome, thus begging the question, is protection necessary? Breaking the more stereotypical links between signs of danger and anarchy and the threats they might represent and thus making physical barriers dispensable, TLaloC instead asks the viewer to be present with the discomfort they might feel and notice the unlikely havens they may find just at the edge of recognizability – from a set of piano strings to the artist’s bespoke neon symbols that may as well be an alphabet.

Inspired by the signs and scripts of universal cultures, TLaloC highlights that understanding is not always necessary to feel comfort in the presence of someone or something new.

Through a collaboration with composer and musician Miguel Soto, TLaloC provides an audiovisual experience that weaves together dialogues between the two artists and a group of individuals who have, at a time in their life, found themselves to be foreign to a place. The answers reveal the diverse ways the human mind navigates and adapts to the new, delivering representational and abstract accompaniments to TLaloC’s winding paths.

The audience is invited to Soto and TLaloC’s interactive performance, which will incorporate responses from immigrants, on September 6.

About the Artist: TLaloC (Practice)

TLaloC explores the realms of art, illustration, and graphic and product design through a methodic and ludic use of materials, processes, and technologies. His focus lies in creating and expanding universes filled with impossible taxonomies, manifested through multi-sensorial installations that offer immersive experiences for the spectator. Among the most recurrent and identifiable themes in his work are a fascination with the unknown, the obsolescence of things, collective memory, nostalgia, and the elaboration of nonexistent languages.

TLaloC’s work is easily recognizable through strangely familiar (Non)bjects (better known as ‘Elgreenes’), mysterious symbols, and enigmatic characters, as well as the extensive use of neon lights, incorporation of scents, sound, large-scale inflatable sculptures, light boxes, and more recently, the integration of AI.

The recurrent use of size-shifting elements in his work directly alludes to his childhood. The recognizable shapes in his art evoke didactic toys fused with unknown elements from a bygone era. The intention to present them in various materials and variable scales aims to recreate the same playful process he experienced as a child: playing with a vast array of objects, rearranging them, interchanging their meanings, building cities, tearing them down, and rebuilding them from scratch.

About the Artist: TLaloC (Bio)

TLaloC is an award-winning illustrator, interdisciplinary artist, graphic designer, and educator born in the industrial city of Monterrey, Mexico. He holds an MFA in illustration practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship (2012). He currently works as a full-time teacher in MICA’s First Year Experience (FYE) and Illustration departments.

Among other projects and distinctions, TLaloC designed the Trophy Award of the first ever SPOTIFY Awards (2020). He has won gold, silver, and bronze awards in the Latin American Design (LAD) Awards in 2019, 2020, and 2023 in the Professional Illustration category. He was selected winner of the 01 (2018), 02 (2020), and 03 (2022) PICTOLINE Illustration Biennial in Latin America (exhibition and printed book). He was also part of the portfolio jury for the 2018 Young Ones Student Awards.

TLaloC was a selected winner for Society of Illustrators 62, 63, and 64 UNCOMMISIONED SHOW/SOI128 (exhibit and book), and a chosen winner for the American Illustration 38 AI-AP. He was a merit winner for the “ADC -The One Show/The One Club for Creativity’s 100th Anniversary. He was selected as show winner for CQ60 (Creative Quarterly) in the Professional Illustration Category and won merit recognition for the 3×3 International Illustration Annual 16, 3×3 printed annual and online gallery. He has been selected a winner at AI-AP (American Illustration/American Photography) Latin American Ilustración 2, TR3S, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8  and also in the itinerant exhibition “Los Diez” (Orensanz N.Y. Foundation).

TLaloC was selected as a finalist in LAD American Design 5 (2021) and 2 (2017). He has received honorable mentions at the Illustration 3×3 The Magazine for Contemporary Illustration competition. He was shortlisted for the 2021 CA (Communication Arts) Illustration competition and long-listed for the World Illustrators Award AOI (Associations of Illustrators) 2020. He also has been a semifinalist at the Adobe Design Achievement Awards (ADAA) and was part of the first generation of PICTOPLASMA Academy Mexico.

TLaloC’s work has taken part in 45+ collective national and international exhibitions in México, China, Germany, Colombia, and the US, among other countries, and in six solo exhibitions.

Learn more at www.elgreenproject.com/

About the Curator: Mehveş Lelic

Mehveş Lelic, VisArts’ 2024 Mentoring Curator, is an Istanbul-born artist, curator, and educator based on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In her work, she ponders modernity and heritage, belonging, and the resulting relationship with the environment. She is an assistant professor of art and art history and is the director of Mosely Gallery at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. She holds an MFA from Bard College and a BA from the University of Chicago.

Lelic’s photographic work has been exhibited internationally in venues such as the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Rotterdam Photo Festival, PhotoNOLA, Filter Photo Chicago, the Ogden Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art Baltimore, Cosmos Arles France, the Photographers’ Gallery Istanbul, and others. Her work has been published in National Geographic, GEO Magazine, Ain’t Bad, Lenscratch, C41, Aesthetic, and Der Greif. She has been awarded the National Geographic Expeditions Council Grant, the City of Chicago Individual Artists’ Award, the Turkish Cultural Foundation Cultural Exchange Fellowship, the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) Conference Fellowship, and the ArtTable Faith Flanagan Fellowship.

Lelic previously served as curator and head of the Curatorial Department at the Academy Art Museum in Easton, Maryland and has curated and organized over 20 exhibitions, including Spatial Reckoning: Morandi, Picasso, and Villon (2023); Laura Letinsky: No More Than It Should Be (2023); Marty Two Bulls, Jr.: Dominion (2023); In Praise of Shadows: Jun’ichiro Tanizaki and Modern and Contemporary Works (2023); Mary Cassatt: Labor and Leisure (2023); Fickle Mirror: Dialogues in Self-Portraiture (2022); Jackie Milad: Vestige (2022); Norma Morgan: Enchanted World (2022); The Movable Image: Video Art by Collis/Donadio, Shala Miller, and Rachel Schmidt (2022); Hoesy Corona: Terrestrial Caravan (2022); and On Water (2019).

Learn more at www.mehveslelic.com

Image by Vivian Marie Doering

VisArts’ Emerging Curator Program pairs an emerging curator with an experienced, mentoring curator to produce new exhibitions and related programming.

Generous funding for this exhibition has been provided by

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