Hammer Projects: Edgar Arceneaux

Hammer Projects: Edgar Arceneaux

Edgar Arceneaux’s ongoing project Drawings of Removal (1999-) is a meditation on the fleeting nature of the present and the function of memory. During the run of the exhibition the artist’s studio will be on site and the installation will feature a changing array of layered, cut-out, excavated, drawn, and re-drawn images. The constantly shifting work, inspired in part by his father’s memory of his hometown of Beaumont, Texas as it existed in his youth and as it exists today, mimics the nature of memory itself. In the artist’s own words, “the work not only represents the idea of loss or of the gap between memory and desire, but is literally active. Something is being built and something is breaking down.”

Organized by James Elaine, curator of Hammer Projects, and Aimee Chang, curatorial assistant.


Edgar Arceneaux was born in 1972 in Los Angeles, California, where he continues to live and work. He received his BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and his MFA from the California Institute of Arts in Valencia, California. In addition he has studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine and at the Fachhochschule Aachen in Germany. He has had solo exhibitions at the Kunstverein Ulm, Germany; Galerie Kamm, Berlin; Frehrkring Wiesehoefer, Cologne; Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; The Studio Museum of Harlem, New York and the Project, New York. Recent group shows include True Stories at the Witte de With, Rotterdam; Social Strategies: Redefining Social Realism at the University Art Museum, Santa Barbara, Urban Aesthetics at the African American Museum of Art, Los Angeles, and One Planet Under a Groove at the Bronx Museum, New York.


By Aimee Chang

Edgar Arceneaux is interested in the relationship between artistic processes, most often drawing, and psychology, physics, and philosophy. His explorations—in the form of room-sized installations incorporating sculpture, drawings, and ephemera—favor a nonlinear and nonobjective logic, paying attention instead to unintended connections, interstitial spaces, and, in his words, “a different way to construct relationships between things.”1 In early works he placed portraits of famous figures—Spock, Tuvac, and Tupac in one work and Ralph Waldo Emerson and Ralph Waldo Ellison in another—on single sheets of frosted vellum, delighting in alliteration and association while simultaneously probing the fundament of our culture. In keeping with his open-ended approach to information and with the way in which we receive information in our day-to-day lives, no distinction is made between fictional characters and real people, high and pop culture. More recent works—Drawings of Removal (1999–), The Trivium (2001), Rootlessness (2002), and Lost Library (2003)—take over entire rooms, allowing for more points of contact, an increased field of consideration, and deeper associations.

In 1998 Arceneaux and his parents took a road trip to his father’s hometown, Beaumont, Texas. The artist was there for the first time, and his father had not been there in more than twenty-five years. They arrived in Texas and found the city practically unrecognizable. Recalling the trip, Arceneaux said: “The house [my father] grew up in is completely gone, [the site] is just a grassy field with a tree stump. The geography itself had changed. They’d put in new streets—literally reconfiguring the landscape.”

 Drawings of Removal

 Drawings of Removal 

 Drawings of Removal 

 Drawings of Removal

 Library as Cosmos Drawings of Removal 


1. All quotations from the artist are from a conversation with the author, January 30, 2003.

2. Charles Gaines, “Memory and the Sublime: Looking for the Jersey Devil,” in Edgar Arceneaux, 107th Street Watts, ed. Franklin Sirmans (Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Revolver Archiv für aktuelle Kunst, 2003), unpaginated.

Aimee Chang is curatorial assistant at the UCLA Hammer Museum.


Hammer Projects are made possible with support from The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Annenberg Foundation, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and members of the Hammer Circle.