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Nancy Lupo: Scripts for the Pageant

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 to Sunday, Mar 15, 2020

For her first solo museum exhibition, Los Angeles-based artist Nancy Lupo stages a conversation between the architecture of MCASD Downtown’s Farrell Gallery and a new sculpture, Open Mouth.

Composed of a circular arrangement of 16 cast aluminum benches, Open Mouth invites viewers to sit and engage the sculpture with their bodies. The benches approximate, in 3/4-scale, versions of benches Lupo noticed at Termini train station in Rome. While the aesthetics of most public furnishings are meant to recede behind their functionality, the odd end pieces of the Termini bench stand out for their peculiarly suggestive form, appearing alternately as a tombstone or as an enlarged tooth. If imagined from above, Lupo’s Open Mouth follows a double catenary curve to trace the diagram of an open mouth, where the curious end pieces stand in as teeth in an adult human jaw.

The title for the exhibition, Scripts for the Pageant, is shared with a poem by James Merrill. Less of a specific reference, Lupo uses language as another kind of found object, to be re-staged and re-contextualized. Alongside the installation of benches, the exhibition includes a carefully chosen selection from a series of ongoing works in photography, video, writing, and sculpture that form part of what she considers to be an archive or alphabet. Each of these pieces is brought together to construct an internal logic within the exhibition, based around rules or systems that are not always visible.

Lupo’s sculptures draw attention to our presence among everyday objects, materials, and spaces that are often overlooked. Her work explores instances of ambiguity and confusion as a slow force that is at once unsettling and full of potential. This installation prompts us to consider how we look at things, and how the spaces we inhabit affect our view of them.

Nancy Lupo: Scripts for the Pageant is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and made possible by gifts to the annual operating fund. Institutional support of MCASD is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Fund.