Ser Serpas was raised in Boyle Heights, a Los Angeles neighborhood infused with a strong history of radical leftist activism. Serpas took up this cause, dedicating much of her time to community organizing during her high school years. Art ultimately replaced activist work, as she became disenchanted with the respectability politics within activism, which she found limiting and unaccepting of marginalized groups. In response, she relocated to New York City to complete her studies at Columbia University and adopted a practice largely invested in critiquing and celebrating the value (or lack thereof) of material objects. Whether working with discarded detritus found on the street or hoarded fabric gifted to her by friends, Serpas manipulates these materials to produce art in a manner that complicates perceptions of value, imbuing what would otherwise be garbage with meaning. In a subversion of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades or Robert Rauschenberg’s Combines, Serpas returns her sculptures to the streets after their display, allowing them to revert to waste and playing with what is permissible inside and outside the museum.
For Made in L.A. 2020, Ser Serpas presents a gridded display of discarded objects that quotes a series of artworks she calls assisted readymades, in which she sources objects from the area immediately surrounding an exhibition site, gathers them, and produces a work (or works) at the exhibition site. These works rely on her physical access to the sites as well as the private performance of her assembling of the pieces. Limited by the current climate and COVID-19 restrictions, Serpas was unable to perform this work for the biennial. In the artist’s words:
Potential Indefinite Performance, This That And Now Again
Ser Serpas is from Los Angeles. She was asked to contribute work from the assisted readymade portion of her practice to Made in L.A. 2020. Within the assisted readymade portion of her practice, she tends to source objects from the area immediately surrounding an exhibition site, gather them at the exhibition site, and produce a work or works at the exhibition site, or “on-site.” This portion of her practice is dependent upon her unfettered access to the areas immediately surrounding the exhibition site and the exhibition site itself—in the case of Made in L.A. 2020, the Hammer Museum in Westwood and The Huntington in San Marino—and requires unconditional discretion on her part in the selection of materials as well as the presentation of the work. Due to her residence in Switzerland, the travel restrictions in place at the time of her allotted installation period, and the existing guidelines that she received concerning the authorized qualities of materials for exhibition in the institutions, she was not able to contribute work from this portion of her practice to either site of Made in L.A. 2020.
The objects presented here were collected in the areas surrounding this exhibition site and laid out in a grid in September 2020. Collectively, they are not a work or works. They were not collected or laid out by the artist; they were not collected or laid out on direct instruction from the artist. Because the qualities of the objects were subject to institutional guidelines instead of the artist’s discretion, their selection cannot be apportioned to the artist’s practice. Rather, these objects constitute the potential for a work or works, a performance set at an indefinite time. These objects will be properly disposed of at the end of Made in L.A. 2020.
In Made in L.A. 2020: a version, the artist’s work is present in two institutions, across Los Angeles. See Ser Serpas's work on view at The Huntington.
Ser Serpas was born in 1995 in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, an area with a history of radical leftist (i.e., socialist and communist) activism. Serpas took to this lineage, dedicating much of her time to community organizing during her high school years. Art ultimately replaced activist work, as Serpas became disenchanted with the respectability politics within activism. In response, she relocated to New York City, completed her studies at Columbia University, and adopted a practice largely invested in critiquing and celebrating the value (or lack thereof) of material objects. Whether made from discarded detritus found on the street or from hoarded fabric gifted to Serpas by her friends, these reworked objets d'art exist in and out of value, troubling our attachment to what would otherwise be garbage. That Serpas exhibits these Rauschenberg-like combines of furniture and appliances within galleries only to return them to the streets instigates a game of double Dutch, as she plays with what is permissible inside and outside the pristine white cube. Serpas has had solo exhibitions at Ludlow 38, New York (2019); LUMA Westbau, Zurich (2018); and Current Projects, Miami (2017), as well as participating in group exhibitions at Fri Art, Kunsthalle Fribourg, Switzerland (2019); Swiss Institute, New York (2018); and Performance Space New York (2018).