Artist Spotlight: Carmen Argote

Artist Visit by Chela Simón-Trench for Discover LA August 3, 2023

Carmen Argote is a visual and performance artist, raised in LA. Her practice is grounded in collaboration, ritual, and walking. Her most recent exhibition at ICA LA titled, “I won’t abandon you, I see you, we are safe” will run through Gallery Weekend 2023, July 27th-29th. The title is drawn from the phrases that Carmen speaks to her inner child, which speaks to a theme of play present throughout the exhibition. 

Carmen sitting in the playspace at her ICA LA show.
An artwork by Carmen, made of the stuff of life.

Filled with the stuff of life, Carmen’s shows are breathing and active. She visits her artworks every day and tends to them: 

“I have this idea of tending to my own rituals, tending to myself, tending to the flock [her chickens], and tending to the show. And tending to the show both with collaborations, but also tending to the show with what has become a residency within it. The kitchen here at ICA LA has been transformed. I’m calling it the kitchen residency. I am using the space as both a studio and an exhibition space. The show is a living thing. It’s a living presence. It’s not like the art came here and is static. I’m still very much in relationship and conversation with these works, even as they are being shown.”

Carmen in the Kitchen Residency at ICA LA.

Carmen walks for miles through the city each day as a foundational part of her practice. Her “stuff of life” found materials are the stuff of LA. The artist and her artworks are closely tied to the city: “I grew up here, so let me see if I can put my connection with LA into words. There is the downtown skyline and seeing it from different vantage points. I grew up in West MacArthur Park and now I live in East LA, so I have seen it from both sides. When I’m walking, I see it in the distance, then walk into it, then pass through it. In my walking I feel very connected to the pedestrian perspective of LA.”

Installation views of Carmen's ICA LA show.

Carmen Argote’s artworks are relics, documentations of the performance and rituals that made them– play, collaboration, walking, and the materials of the city. Always the city: “I feel connected to LA. I feel very connected to Boyle Heights. I feel connected to the bridge. I feel connected to my favorite places, like the Bonaventure. I love the LA Central Library. Places I knew that are no longer there– that’s a huge thing. There are all of these emotions– there’s grief, there’s love, and there’s walking over the freeway passes on the bridge and feeling like it’s an ocean.”

Carmen in the playspace.
Artist Visit June 23, 2021
Collector Visit May 25, 2021
Artist Visit May 13, 2021