Words and Fonts, and How They Shape Worldviews

Gabriella Sanchez: Partial Pictures, installation view at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Gabriella Sanchez wants us to question our perceptions. Her new solo show at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach plays with words, fonts, collage, images from the artist’s family archive, and symbols of Latinx LA. Titled Partial Pictures, the exhibit asks more questions than it answers, asking each viewer to become aware of how they make associations based on their preconceptions. For example, a word written in Old English (versus Sans Serif) or a blue ballpoint pen rose illustration might feel familiar and comforting to a Chicano viewing the work, while for another person it could bring up stereotypes of gangs and criminality. Sanchez wants you to ask why a simple font change has the power to do that. 

One particular work “From/Veronica/Form” (2020) features a photo of a pregnant person of color looking straight at the camera; a metallic cursive engraving of the word “from” sits below them. A viewer might recall the question “where are you from?” that many people of color constantly get asked. Or maybe they think of “where are you from?” as in, “what gang are you in?” A third interpretation could be existential, as in, “where do we all come from?” On the right side of the pregnant person is the word “form” painted in Old English. A simple switch of a letter changes the entire meaning. 

Gabriella Sanchez, “From/Veronica/Form” (2020)

In another work, titled “First and Second” (2021), a man wearing chucks and baggy jeans is standing in ballet’s first position, below him a pasted photo of a Degas painting with a ballerina in second position. At the bottom of the image the word “baile,” as in “dance,” is painted in Old English, but the last letter “e” is partially covered by the ballerina so as to suggest the word “bail.” At times, words are bendable and flexible, while in other moments we recognize their potential to trap and constrict. 

Sometimes Sanchez forgoes words, but the effect is nonetheless similar. In her series Portals, she adorns chain link circles with beads, which frame pixelated images of a hand holding an arm, arms holding out skirts, feet in mid-movement, and the torso of man. The images, while serene and intimate, are bound by cold, oppressing metal. 

Gabriella Sanchez, “First and Second” (2021)Gabriella Sanchez, Portals (2021) Gabriella Sanchez, “Betty Boop titled (Proto) Type/ Diana” (2020) (detail) Gabriella Sanchez, “In a Word / En una Palabra” (2018)

Gabriella Sanchez: Partial Pictures continues at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) (628 Alamitos Avenue, Long Beach, California) through January 2022. The exhibition was curated by Chief Curator Gabriela Urtiaga.

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