“Love Me Two Times” is on display at the Arizona State University Art Museum. The exhibition is divided between two recent projects by Cuban-born Bay Area-based artist Tony Labat exploring issues of labor, migration and displacement.
Jose Cardenas: In sounds of cultura, SOC, "love me two times" is an exhibition on display at the ASU art museum showcasing two recent projects by Cuban-born artist Tony Labat, exploring displacement, migration, and labor. Joining me to talk about the exhibition is Julio Morale , ASU art museum curator. Love me two times I guess is a reference to the - that the U.S. is having with its former colony so to speak -- before the Cuban revolution.
Julio Morales: It is a recent re-engagement with Cuba with the United States.
Jose Cardenas: This artist, he's somebody who left Cuba at a relatively young age.
Julio Morales: Yes, he left Cuba at a very young age in 1966. And he spent some time in Miami and decided to go to the west coast and he went to go to school to San Francisco art institute where he actually has stayed for the last 40 years.
Jose Cardenas: Which is where you met him.
Julio Morales: That's where I met him. I actually went to school there. And he was a -- the head of the program that I was studying, which was a new genre is what it is called.
Jose Cardenas: How did you get him here for this exhibition?
Julio Morales: We have talked for a while to do a project together. And when I saw his project he did for the 2012 -- a billiards hall, I was intrigued to see if we could bring it here.
Jose Cardenas: As I understand it from reading materials about it, something that was intriguing was whether it could be there because billiard halls outlawed in Cuba for --
Julio Morales: 50 years, exactly. This is the first time there was a public billiards club. I'm sure there are some underground ones. But for the first time in 50 years through the usage of arts it became a public billiards hall.
Jose Cardenas: What was the message he was trying to send?
Julio Morales: I think the message, one, the appearance of this type of sport or this type of leisure disappeared with the grandiose -- relationship with the United States. What is interesting, pool table is in the shape of Cuba. So, his idea is about relearning the game and he mirrors the position in politics in Cuba and the United States where the old rules do not apply. You have to relearn how to play pool in order to play this table.
Jose Cardenas: Well, and it is an interesting table. We have pictures of it. The first three pictures are from the exhibition in Cuba and the last one from which you have here. And it is an interesting-shaped table.
Julio Morales: Uh-hmm. And it is also interesting with the bleachers as well. This was made one one tree in Cuba that we believe is a walnut. And it is very unique because the person who actually made it is not a designer of pool tables. The chief of police in Havana actually have two tables sitting around. So he had this young man reconstruct, take it apart and Tony met him and he decided let's make this project. What you see in this image here is quite interesting because Cuba is actually facing Miami. The bleachers are Miami. And they're in the same exact position.
Jose Cardenas: What is the significance of the chalk board in the picture?
Julio Morales: I think the chalkboard acts like a document at the time that the billiards is installed. You know when you write your name, playing against somebody else and then you scratch out their name, the next person comes. In a way it is a document of who has experienced with this artwork.
Jose Cardenas: And the exhibition at ASU, both the pool table and bleachers.
Julio Morales: This is Tony playing the pool table.
Jose Cardenas: And this is at ASU.
Julio Morales: Yes, the ASU art museum. One of the things that was quite interesting and striking to Tony, we have one of the best collections of contemporary Cuban work in the museum. I asked him if he would curate that work from our collection that has a connection to his project. And that's what you see in the background.
Jose Cardenas: And this is what makes it different from what was on exhibit --
Julio Morales: In Havana, exactly.
Jose Cardenas: As I understand it, two aspects to the installation. One is coming up. This one focused on Cuba and I guess some of the issues of lost culture and so forth. The second one focuses more on labor issues.
Julio Morales: Exactly. Tony for years has lived at 24th street in San Francisco and Cesar Chavez where this is where the primary people who are -- day laborers looking for work are basically outside of his window, his studio. He decided to document the day laborers for six months and see what happens. At the same time that he is attempting to create artwork and waiting around for ideas to come to him, the same thing is happening with the day laborers waiting for someone to pick them up and give them a job. But this is interesting as well because it refers to two of the largest economies in the world that are unregulated. The art world and informal economy.
Jose Cardenas: And these are videos that uses to illustrate this.
Julio Morales: These are videos. For the second part of the exhibition, Tony will have three channel video projections where audiences can come and look through the videos of the recordings and see what happened during those moments of people waiting to -- for a job as laborers.
Jose Cardenas: We have had some information on the screen about the exhibition. The first part -- will the first part be taken down and then the second one --?
Julio Morales: The first part will travel to San Francisco. And then we will have the second part of the exhibition only on April 30th until the run of the exhibition.
Jose Cardenas: April 30th is when the second --
Julio Morales: Will open, yes.
Jose Cardenas: And again, location, art museum on the Tempe campus?
Julio Morales: Yes, exactly. And I should also mention that Tony has been a pioneer in video arts. In California video arts. He started making work in 1987. One of the first works was an intervention within the "Gong Show." I am not sure if you remember the '70s projectâ€¦
Jose Cardenas: I do and I wish we had more time to talk about it. I wish we had more time to talk about it. But we are out of time.
So we have that at the project space in downtown and you can look at the web site for the video.
Jose Cardenas: Thank you so much.
Julio Morales: Thank you.
Jose Cardenas: Appreciate it.
Jose Cardenas: And that's our show for tonight. For all of us here at channel 8, I'm Jose Cardenas. Thank you for joining us.
Julio Morale: ASU art museum curator; Tony Labat: Artist