February 12, 1999

Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego Presents Amor Como Primer Idioma

The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (MCA) will present Amor Como Primer Idioma (Love as First Language), an exhibition by Tijuana native Marcos Ramirez (a.k.a. ERRE), at MCA Downtown February 13 through July 18, 1999. ERRE's critically acclaimed installations for inSITE94 and inSITE 97, the binational exhibitions staged in San Diego and Tijuana, have made him one of the preeminent artists in the Baja California region.

Amor Como Primer Idioma reflects the ongoing struggle over language and national identity that has been especially heated in California. The 1998 passage of Proposition 227 (requiring all students in public schools be immersed in English-only instruction, dismantling to a great extent bilingual education) influenced this multi-layered installation. For ERRE, the piece is a useful meditation on the potential of love's symbols as challenges to divisive social and cultural barriers, as constituted in and through language. The exhibition features four new pieces by the artist.

Acorazado, the title of ERRE's outdoor sculpture, is a pun on the Spanish words coraza (armour-plate) and corazón (heart). A symbol brimming with multiple meanings, the heart appears throughout the history of visual culture in the Americas, notably in pre-Columbian rites, Catholic pageantry, and Baroque art. ERRE conceives of his armored heart as an abandoned structure (perhaps watchtower, fort, or isolation tank). Within the fourteen-foot-high sculpture rests a lone chair that one can view only by peering through slats cut into the object. While this outdoor heart is ominous and seemingly impenetrable, a heart placed inside the Museum, made of open, wrought iron bars, reclines in a position of vulnerability. With these two hearts ERRE loosely suggests cultural associations, connecting traditional representations of hard-heartedness and distance to the outdoor organ while the interior heart is more passionate, therefore caged and suffering.

Dual statements set the tone for the installation: "Lengua para expresarnos (Language/Tongue to express ourselves)" and "Corazón para comprendernos (Heart to understand ourselves)." In one sculpture, these phrases are placed in a rectangular structure that streams forth a fluid resembling tears, sweat, or other bodily fluids. The title of another piece, Ruins of Babel, alludes to the biblical tale, and is composed of letters from different languages: Chinese, Arabic, Latin, and others. The piece imagines a time before the indoctrination of language, a time when the differences in languages were unrecognizable.

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